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2019-05-29 | J++ Newsletter #76

The problem with Facebook's transparency

Like many other newsrooms, we have spent time digging into Facebook's open API for accessing political ads ahead of the European election. Katarina Lind of J++ Stockholm has summarized the issues with using that data as a primary source for journalism in a blog post well worth a read (Swedish):

A very brief English summary:
The data we currently get from Facebook shows who parties reach, not who they targeted. And there is no way to retrieve all political ads, nor a way to estimate how large a proportion we found. This effectually invalidates many stories based on the data. 
It can be useful, however, for augmenting other data, for for looking for specific anomalies, like Spiegel Online did here:

EIJC & Data Harvest 2019

This year's Data Harvest conference was organized in tandem with EIJC, by a new organizer: Arena for journalism.
This is what we'll remember: 

1. Collaborative is the new default.
Data Harvest have always been focused on cross-border journalism, but this year it was no longer something needed to be pointed out. 

Recommended reading: 2. The ubiquitous but often vague ideas around “investigating algorithms” have matured. Seminars on this conference touched not only on algorithms used (often quite boring) or how to reverse-engineer them (rarely possible), but also on why they are implemented (to make better decisions, or to save money?); how to cover institutional overview and monitoring of algorithmic decision making; how to evaluate effect and impact; how to ... ; etc, etc. The topic of algorithmic decision-making seem to be covered less and less as a technological one, and more and more as a social.

Recommended reading:
3. The QGIS workshops were filled to the brim, which is great news. There are enormous potential in geo-data as a source of reporting.
Which makes this a great opportunity to announce that we are giving an introduction to geo-data for journalists in Stockholm in October this year (using QGIS as our primary tool). Drop us an email if you're interested and would like to hear more about that!


Behind the scenes of Washington Post's impressive fact checking, and database building, of Trump lies, in he FiveThirtyEight podcast:

“The power to not collect data is one of the most important and little-understood sources of power that governments have”, writes Anna Powell-Smith, who just launched a blog dedicated to gaps in UK government data.
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