Categories
Journalism

My Colleague and I Won a SABEW Award for our Coverage of Facebook in India

SABEW

I’m proud to say that my colleague Jeff Horwitz and were honored earlier this week with a 2020 “Best in Business” award from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) for our coverage of Facebook in India. We won the international reporting award (for large news organizations).

From the judging comments:

“This well-documented set of impactful stories reveals how Facebook and its executives in India are conflicted, or even willfully blind, when company policy calls for blocking hate speech but company interests include working with a governing party closely linked to that hate speech.”

And:

“Sobering reporting on a fundamental worldwide concern that resonates strongly with the ongoing turmoil over social media and hate speech in the U.S.”

Among our stories on the topic, which I’ve linked to here before:

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN262: Bouncy Berneses

Hong Kong license plate Dee Krub good in Thai

Sent as an email newsletter on May 9,2021. Didn’t arrive in your inbox? Join my email list to get future editions delivered directly.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

🇹🇭 🙏 Image of the week, above: a license plate I spotted recently here in Hong Kong that says “good” in Thai. That’s “dee” (ดี), “good,” followed by “krup” (คฺรับ), a word often used by male speakers for added politeness.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 👉 🎧 I was on our “The Journal” podcast Tuesday talking about my recent story on India, Covid–19, and accusations that the government is censoring social media. You can listen online here, or find the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other services. [WSJ]

2) 🦠 Is “herd immunity” in the U.S. a pipe dream? Experts say the answer is yes. The consensus is that “the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.” [New York Times]

3) 😷 “Progressive communities have been home to some of the fiercest battles over COVID–19 policies, and some liberal policy makers have left scientific evidence behind.” [The Atlantic]

4) 💔 Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing after 27 years. What will happen to their $49.8 billion foundation? What about their 66,000-square-foot, $131 million Seattle mansion? [WSJ, New York Times]

5) 🔍 How Google, which like many firms has long used open office plans, is redesigning its workspaces for a post-pandemic world. [New York Times]

6) 🛸 “For decades, flying saucers were a punch line. Then the U.S. government got over the taboo.” [New Yorker]

7) 💅 Aesthetics Wiki is a compendium of personal styles ranging from the more well-known (preppy, brocore, normcore) to many I’d never heard of (dark academic, cottagecore). Who knew? [aesthetics dot fandom dot com]

8) 🚙 A state senator in Ohio participated in a Zoom meeting while driving, apparently adjusting his background to make it look like he was at home. [Gizmodo]

9) 🔦 Lights at Sea is a clickable map of the world’s lighthouses. More info here. (Github, Big Think)

10) 👏 Epic: “A 4-year-old cartoon fanatic from Brooklyn went a little overboard by buying nearly $3,000 worth of nonrefundable SpongeBob SquarePants Popsicles on Amazon.” [New York Post]

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

🐶 President of Ireland’s Dog Steals the Show [YouTube]

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“I can’t tell you how to get rich quickly; I can only tell you how to get poor quickly: by trying to get rich quickly.” – André Kostolany

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism

Me on ‘The Journal’ Podcast Talking India, Covid-19, and Social Media

Journal podcast -- India, Covid, social media

I was on Tuesday’s edition of our “The Journal” podcast talking about my recent story on India, Covid-19, and accusations that the government is censoring social media over its handling of the crisis.

You can listen online here or find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other services. It was out May 4 and is called “India’s Social Media Crackdown.”

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN261: Dog Jump Fails

Sent as an email newsletter April 18, 2021. Join my email list to get future editions.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

👉 Image of the week, above: Ginger and the Hong Kong skyline, snapped during a recent picnic at the West Kowloon Art Park.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) ✍️ My latest: I had a story out Monday; the headline: India Accused of Censorship for Blocking Social Media Criticism Amid Covid Surge. It begins:

India’s government ordered Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc. and Instagram to block about 100 social media posts criticizing its handling of the exploding Covid–19 surge in the country, sparking public anger and allegations of censorship in the world’s most populous democracy.

Click through to read the rest.

2) 👉 The situation in India is alarming indeed. The latest figures out today: 392,488 new infections, down from 401,993 the previous day, and 3,689 deaths. “Experts believe both figures are an undercount,” the Associated Press says. [AP]

3) 🧪 Interactive: “How Pfizer Makes Its Covid–19 Vaccine.” [New York Times]

4) 🎬 “Nomadland” won an Oscar for best picture. And Beijing-born director Chloé Zhao became the first Asian woman to win an Academy Award for best director, and the second woman to do so. [WSJ]

5) 🇨🇳 …and the win by Zhao, who has criticized China, was censored in her home country. [WSJ]

6) 🗣 A fascinating oral history by Garrett M. Graff, out on the ten-year anniversary: “The plan to kill Osama bin Laden – from the spycraft to the assault to its bizarre political backdrop – as told by the people in the room.”

7) 🏛 Democratic strategist James Carville: “Wokeness is a problem and everyone knows it. It’s hard to talk to anybody today — and I talk to lots of people in the Democratic Party — who doesn’t say this. But they don’t want to say it out loud.” [Vox]

8) 🚙 Amazing car parking demonstration of the week: “Eugène from Liedekerke is an 87-year old man who, since 1951, still parks his car in a very narrow garage. So narrow that he only has 1,2 inch to spare at either side of the car. Luckily for Eugène Fiat has produced the Panda.” [YouTube]

9) ⭐ From author and technologist Kevin Kelly: 99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice. One I especially like: “Be governed not by the tyranny of the urgent but by the elevation of the important.” (Previously: “68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice.”) [KK dot org]

10) 🐶 Feel good (I think?) dog-related story of the week: “Prancer, The ‘Haunted Victorian Child’ Dog From Viral Ad, Has Been Adopted.” (The original ad is well worth reading. To wit: “He’s literally the Chihuahua meme that describes them as being 50% hate and 50% tremble. If you’re intrigued and horrified at how this animal sounds already, just wait….there’s more. ”) [NPR, Petfinder]

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week: “Majestic jump!” [Reddit]

•••

What I’ve Been Watching:

📖 We watched, and loved, the new PBS documentary “Hemingway,” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. In three parts spanning six hours, we learn about his monumental works, his involvement in events like the Spanish Civil War and both World Wars, and his tumultuous, tragic personal life. Highly recommended.

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“As long as I have a book in my hand, I don’t feel like I’m wasting time.” – Charlie Munger

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism Tech

India Accused of Censorship for Blocking Social Media Criticism Amid Covid Surge

That’s the headline on my newest story, out yesterday. It begins:

India’s government ordered Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc. and Instagram to block about 100 social media posts criticizing its handling of the exploding Covid-19 surge in the country, sparking public anger and allegations of censorship in the world’s most populous democracy.

Officials said the legally binding order was designed to tackle what it called attempts in recent days to spread coronavirus-related misinformation and create panic by posting images of dead bodies taken out of context. Twitter, which received many of the takedown requests, blocked the posts in India, though they remained visible outside the country.

“Certain people are misusing social media to create panic in society,” India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement Monday, when asked about the blocks. It didn’t specify which laws were used to issue the orders.

Many people on social media reacted with outrage. They said that the posts and others—some from senior opposition politicians—were political speech, arguing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn’t done enough to curb India’s mammoth coronavirus surge, which shows no signs of slowing down from setting global records.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN260: Pup’s Plaintive Performance

Covid infections in India

Sent as an email newsletter April 18, 2021. Join my email list to get future editions.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

👉 Image of the week, above: Covid–19 cases in India, sadly, are exploding. More on that below…

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🏥 India is suffering from a Covid–19 crisis, registering more than 349,000 new infections today – the fourth straight day it’s set a global record. Many hospitals are stretched thin, oxygen supplies are reportedly running low, and crematoriums are overburdened. [AP]

2) ⚖️ A jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on murder charges in the death of George Floyd. [WSJ]

3) 📱 Related: “By bearing witness — and hitting ‘record’ — 17-year-old Darnella Frazier may have changed the world.” [Washington Post]

4) 🍎 Apple announced several new products, including: AirTags (a new tracking device), a new iPad Pro (notably, featuring Thunderbolt support), new iMacs in seven colors, and – crucially – a release date for season two of Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” (July 23). [WSJ]

5) ⚽ Twelve top teams from England, Spain and Italy said they were forming a new European Super League, proposing to continue playing in their domestic leagues but creating a new midweek competition akin to the Champions League. But within days, amid an outcry from fans, many clubs pulled out; now the league isn’t happening. [BBC News]

6) ✈️ “Inside Passenger Shaming, the notorious Instagram of bad travel behavior.” (Washington Post)

7) 🗣 All about the online “Slander Industry”: “The people facilitating slander and the self-proclaimed good guys who help remove it are often one and the same.” [New York Times]

8) 💊 Some good news in what sometimes seems like a world full of bad news: “We have word of the most effective malaria vaccine yet discovered.” [In the Pipeline]

9) 🎥 Movie of the Night is a new-to-me website that lets you search Netflix by genre, year of release, runtime and more. [MovieOfTheNight dot com]

10) 🥾 On hiking and friendship: The Atlantic’s Julie Beck speaks with four pals who have gone on monthly hikes for 25 years.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week: “Doggo gives emotional performance about being a dog.” [Reddit]

•••

What I’ve Been Reading:

I recently read “The 48 Laws of Power,” Robert Greene’s bestseller from 2000 about how individuals have cultivated and wield force through the ages. You certainly don’t need to read it as a moral guide – I haven’t read anything that Machiavellian since perhaps reading Machiavelli himself in college! – but it’s full of compelling historical anecdotes, dating back to ancient times.

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“Space we can recover, time never.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN259: Pusillanimous Pugs

A recent watercolor

Sent as an email newsletter April 18, 2021. Join my email list to get future editions.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

🍎 🍋 🥑 Image of the week, above: a recent watercolor.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🛸 Photos and video of “unidentified aerial phenomena” from 2019 were, in fact, taken by Navy personnel, the Pentagon said. [CNN]

👉 One perspective on the ongoing sightings: “Adversary Drones Are Spying On The U.S. And The Pentagon Acts Like They’re UFOs.” [The Drive]

2) 🗣 Microsoft is paying $16 billion to acquire speech recognition and artificial intelligence firm Nuance Communications, “extending Chief Executive Satya Nadella’s run of big acquisitions to accelerate growth in everything from healthcare to videogaming.” [WSJ]

3) 🚙 Singapore-based Grab, which offers services such as ride-hailing and food delivery across Southeast Asia, is going public on the Nasdaq in a $39.6 billion special-purpose acquisition company merger – the biggest such deal deal to date. [WSJ]

4) 💰 A milestone for cryptocurrencies: Coinbase, a crypto exchange founded in 2012, went public on the Nasdaq at a valuation of $85 billion. [WSJ]

5) 🤳 “Beauty filters are changing the way young girls see themselves.” [MIT Technology Review]

6) 📷 The winners of the 2021 World Press Photos contests have been announced. See the works here. [World Press Photo]

7) 👀 Insane video of the week: “Oh my god, it’s a bobcat!” NSFW: language. Here’s the apparent back story. [Twitter, ABC 11]

8) ✍️ New-to-me website, art edition: Old Book Illustrations contains a catalog of images ranging from animals, buildings, landscapes, people, plants and more, all in the public domain. [OldBookIllustrations dot com]

9) 🎧 New to me website, music edition: Lofi Cafe, which features chill beats and mesmerizing background images. [Lofi dot cafe]

10) 🎸 Hero of the week: Anthony Coscia, an architect in Connecticut, has created a one-sixth scale model of the Grateful Dead’s famed Wall of Sound speaker array – in his basement. [WSJ]

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week: “have u ever seen a dog this dramatic” [Twitter]

•••

📺 What I’ve been watching:

I recently watched for the first time Martin Scorsese’s 2019 Netflix documentary “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story,” about Dylan’s 1975 tour. It’s full of great performances and behind the scenes footage. Just beware: some parts of the film are…well, made up!

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“There is only one recipe for a best seller and it is a very simple one. You have to get the reader to turn over the page.” – Ian Fleming

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN258: Confident Canines

Hong Kong license plate: sadness

Sent as an email newsletter April 11, 2021. Join my email list to get future editions.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: a personalized license plate spotted here in Hong Kong.

😔 Insert “mood: 2021” joke here.

(Once again, kudos to Anasuya for the snapshot!) Pair with: “No drama,” spotted last year.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 📦 “Amazon employees in Alabama voted not to unionize, handing the tech giant a victory in its biggest battle yet against labor-organizing efforts that fueled national debate over working conditions at one of the nation’s largest employers,” my colleague Sebastian Herrera reports.

2) 🧠 How will we remember the pandemic? Through anecdotes and stories, writes Melissa Fay Greene at The Atlantic. “The process of crafting these stories will help determine our resilience and well-being. How we tell our stories can transform how we move forward from hard times.”

3) 🇬🇧 Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died at age 99. They were married for 73 years.

4) 💰 China has created its own digital currency, a “a re-imagination of money that could shake a pillar of American power.” Fascinating story by my colleague James T. Areddy.

5) 🌏 The U.S. National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2040 report, released every four years, is out. Institutions may face “cascading global challenges,” such as “climate change, disease, financial crises and ever-advancing technology,” VOA reports.

6) 🧰 Data-driven WSJ deep dive: “Where Can You Find a New Job? Try These U.S. Cities.” Hint: Think “Silicon Slopes…”

7) 🧙‍♂️ A made-for-TV film based on Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” released in the Soviet Union in 1991, was long forgotten. Now it’s enjoying a new life on YouTube.

8) 🎧 Podcast of the week: Economist Tyler Cowen speaks with poet – and former General Foods executive – Dana Gioia on topics ranging from Jell-O marketing techniques to poetry, art, literature, Catholicism – and that sandbox in Brian Wilson’s house.

9) 🤑 Longread of the week, in Bloomberg Businessweek: “Bill Hwang Had $20 Billion, Then Lost It All in Two Days.

10) 🌋 Mesmerizing timelapse video of the week: 18 days of Icelandic volcano eruptions packed into 5 minutes.

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week: “This Is Called Trust.”

•••

📖 What I’ve been reading:

After reading Steven Pressfield’s excellent “The War of Art,” I turned to a journalistic classic: Janet Malcolm’s 1990 book “The Journalist and the Murderer,” which was originally serialized in the New Yorker.

It’s about a fraud lawsuit Jeffrey MacDonald – who was convicted of murdering his wife and children – brought against Joe McGinniss, who wrote a bestselling book about the case, “Fatal Vision.” Malcolm – who was herself sued by the subject of a profile – explores topics such as journalistic ethics, psychology, and truth. Highly recommended.

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN257: Microphone-Munching Mongrels

KitKat pop-up in HK

KitKat pop-up in HK

Sent as an email newsletter April 5, 2021. Enter your email address to get future editions.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

🐰 I hope you had a restful Easter, friends.

🍫 Image of the week, above, amid a chocolate-centric holiday: There is a new KitKat popup store here in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay shopping district.

Special “limited edition” flavors for sale include matcha, ruby chocolate, and yuzu. Open until May 2. Find more info here. (Well spotted and photographed, Anasuya!)

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🗞 My latest, an exclusive that went online Friday and was in Saturday’s print WSJ: Facebook Staff Fret Over China’s Ads Portraying Happy Muslims in Xinjiang. The story begins:

HONG KONG – Facebook Inc. is blocked in China, but Beijing is a big user of the platform to spread its political views to hundreds of millions of people overseas, sometimes via advertisements.

Now, some Facebook staff are raising concerns on internal message boards and in other employee discussions that the company is being used as a conduit for state propaganda, highlighting sponsored posts from Chinese organizations that purport to show Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs thriving in China’s Xinjiang region, according to people familiar with the matter.

🧵 I wrote more in this Twitter thread.

2) ✈️ People in America are traveling again as the vaccine roll-out continues. On Friday the TSA screened the highest number of people – more than 1.5 million – since the Covid–19 pandemic began.

3) 🔍 Video cameras, facial recognition, license plate readers, cell tower records: “How America’s surveillance networks helped the FBI catch the Capitol mob.”

4) 🏠 U.S. housing boom 2.0? "Limited housing supply, low rates, a global reach for yield, and what we’re calling the institutionalization of real-estate investors has set the stage for another speculative investor-driven home price bubble.” Smart story by my colleague Ryan Dezember.

5) 🪙 Two fascinating archeology stories caught my eye this week. The first: Arabian coins from the 17th century found in New England could provide a hint as to the fate of pirate Henry Every.

6) 🦜 …and the second: mummified parrots found in Chile show how people during the 12th and 15th centuries ferried goods – via llama – from the Amazon jungle through the Andes to the Atacama Desert.

7) 🎧 Hua Hsu in the New Yorker on the growing popularity of podcasts by professional athletes: “If athlete-driven podcasts were once shoestring affairs, they’ve now been absorbed into the sports-media economy.”

8) ❓Reddit thread full of interesting tips: “What is the most effective psychological ‘trick’ you use?”

9) 🏀 Buzzer-beater of the week: Jalen Suggs’s bank shot from just inside mid-court, sending Gonzaga past UCLA and into the NCAA final.

10) 🛰 See a satellite tonight: “No telescope required. Click to search for viewing times at your location.”

•••

🦴 Dog-related video of the week: “A dog in Russia grabbed the reporter’s microphone and ran away during a live broadcast.” (Bonus, related video: “Interviewing Pets With a Mini Microphone Compilation.”)

•••

📖 What I’ve been reading:

I finished Yuval Noah Harari’s “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” and then turned to the Steven Pressfield classic “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles,” which I enjoyed. Searching for my next nonfiction read…

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.” – Marcus Aurelius

•••

🤗 What’s new with you? Hit reply to send me tips, queries, random comments, and videos of spotlight-stealing dogs.

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Journalism Tech

Facebook Staff Fret Over China’s Ads Portraying Happy Muslims in Xinjiang

That’s the headline on my newest story, an exclusive that went online Friday and was in Saturday’s print WSJ. It begins:

Facebook Inc. is blocked in China, but Beijing is a big user of the platform to spread its political views to hundreds of millions of people overseas, sometimes via advertisements.

Now, some Facebook staff are raising concerns on internal message boards and in other employee discussions that the company is being used as a conduit for state propaganda, highlighting sponsored posts from Chinese organizations that purport to show Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs thriving in China’s Xinjiang region, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. and some European governments say Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghurs, citing a campaign that includes political indoctrination, mass internment and forced sterilizations.

Facebook hasn’t determined whether to act on the concerns, say people familiar with the matter. The company is watching how international organizations such as the United Nations respond to the situation in Xinjiang, one of the people said. The U.N. this week called on firms conducting Xinjiang-linked business to undertake “meaningful human rights due diligence” on their operations.

Click through to read the rest.