Boing Boing: FDAAA Trials Tracker: leaderboard for pharma companies that break FDA clinical trial rules. “The US government currently requires all trials to be registered on ClinicalTrials.gov when they start — trials that aren’t reported in at their commencement are not eligible for consideration during FDA evaluation; and since ClinicalTrials.gov is public, it should be possible for the public and watchdogs to discover whether pharma companies are reporting in on all their trials. That’s where FDAAA Trials Tracker comes in: it downloads an XML dump from ClinicalTrials.gov, analyzes it, and tracks which trials are due or overdue, as well as ‘whether they have reported results in accor- dance with the law; give performance statistics for each individual trial sponsor; and calculate potential fines that could have been levied by the FDA against sponsors.'”
Search Engine Land: Federal Election Commission proposal toughens political ads disclosure rules. “The nature of political advertising is manipulation and deception. This was taken to extremes in 2016 as fake news and ads from outside actors and extremist groups sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the presidential election. Now, with Russia expected to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is considering additional rules and disclosure requirements for online political ads.” We can only hope.
Journal News: New state website lets citizens see tax dollars at work. “West Virginians can now see how their tax dollars are being used, courtesy of a new state website. West Virginia State Auditor John McCuskey held press conferences in Martinsburg on Monday morning and then in Charleston Monday afternoon to unveil the state’s new website…that will provide citizens a graphic snapshot on spending by the various state government departments.”
Splinter News: Twitter Has an Astroturfing Tool and They Won’t Tell Us Who’s Using It. “Over the past year or so, Twitter users have noticed at least two bizarre ad campaigns that don’t link to a real Twitter account, or have any presence on the web at all: Heartland Priorities and the Middle America Project. Using a Twitter Ads feature that allows advertisers to create promoted tweets that aren’t linked to any permanent profile, these fake organizations are running ads on a number of important public policy issues. Thanks to Twitter’s complete lack of transparency (and refusal to comment for this story), we have no idea who they are.”
The Guardian: Hong Kong democracy activists urge UK to release unseen files. “The documents were transferred to the UK when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 and include material on the region’s future after handover. Activists believe they could cast fresh light on current disputes and also fear that records on events that Beijing deems sensitive – such as deadly riots in 1967 – could otherwise be lost forever.”
The Guardian: ‘Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth. “Company insiders tell me the algorithm is the single most important engine of YouTube’s growth. In one of the few public explanations of how the formula works – that sketches the algorithm’s deep neural networks, crunching a vast pool of data about videos and the people who watch them – YouTube engineers describe it as one of the ‘largest scale and most sophisticated industrial recommendation systems in existence’. Lately, it has also become one of the most controversial.” Long and substantive article.
YouTube Blog: Greater transparency for users around news broadcasters. “A big goal for us in 2018 is to provide greater transparency across the board to our community of creators, advertisers, and viewers. In one small step towards that commitment, today we will start rolling out notices below videos uploaded by news broadcasters that receive some level of government or public funding. Our goal is to equip users with additional information to help them better understand the sources of news content that they choose to watch on YouTube.”