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Unclouding the truth

Posted on August 08, 2013 by

One of the scary things about the decline in print newspaper sales is the mutability of online media. If you rely on digital versions of news stories for reference, it’s impossible to be sure that the paper you buy will be the paper you own tomorrow.

The most spectacularly ironic demonstration of the principle was when Amazon deleted copies of “1984” – a book whose central character spends his life doctoring and falsifying old newspapers for propaganda reasons – from customers’ Kindles without their knowledge a few years ago, showing that even content stored on your own device rather than on a publisher’s website wasn’t totally safe, and could be fiddled with or even taken away entirely, silently, from thousands of miles away.

obamabirth

But nowadays you can read three radically different versions of a story on a newspaper in a single day, all from clicking the same external link, with the whole process conducted in full public view, and almost nobody bats an eyelid.

Yesterday we highlighted a disturbing headline change to a Scotsman story about UK government cuts which ended up being portrayed as a possible consequence of independence. The article had started out with an accurate title, but was edited to become highly misleading and misrepresenative of its own content.

But within hours of our pointing it out, the piece had vanished altogether. Links to it redirected to a completely new story on the same subject by a different author. The original had led with a figure of £1bn for impending budget cuts, but the new headline was of one almost three times as large (£2.7bn), taken from later in the report.

tax3

The third version also removed the focus on the independence referendum, though it still appeared (for no justifiable reason) in the paper’s “Scottish independence” section. To all intents and purposes, the previous two versions never happened.

Luckily, we’re old hands when it comes to the Scotsman’s shenanigans, and we’d saved a copy of the original story (with the v2 headline) for just this sort of eventuality. But it never hurts to be reminded of the iron law of media-watching in the 21st century: don’t rely on links, don’t count on “the cloud”, and take copies of everything.

Goodness knows how many similar examples go unnoticed every day, and a site like this one can’t catch everything – which is why we also count on you, our readers, to be our eyes and ears. So if you see something important, whether it be a newspaper story or a blog or a tweet, don’t trust that it’ll still be there in an hour’s time – preserve it and be certain.

Most websites will let you save a copy of a page onto your own computer. In Firefox, for example, go to the top left of your screen and click on “File” and it’ll give you a “Save Page As…” option that’ll dump the web page onto your computer, safe from any subsequent covert alteration.

Alternatively, you can simply take a “photograph” of anything that appears on your computer screen. On the top row of most keyboards you’ll see a button marked “Print Screen” (or some abbreviated version like “Prt Scr”).

prntscrn

If you press that button, whatever’s on the screen will be copied to your computer’s “clipboard”. To save it permanently, you now need to turn it into an image file. On a Windows PC, click the Start button, click “All Programs” and find the “Accessories” folder. In there is an application called Paint.

Open Paint and press Ctrl and V on your keyboard (or press the big friendly “Paste” button found at the top left of newer versions of Paint). That’ll dump the image into the application, from where you can save it as a normal JPEG file you can email to us.

savescot

Print Screen works for ANYTHING that’s on your computer screen. It’ll save absolutely everything that’s visible, but don’t worry about cropping off all the extra stuff – we can deal with all that at our end.

If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, it’s even simpler. Press the Home button (the big round one) and the power button (the one on the top of the device) at the same time and you’ll hear a camera-shutter sound. Now whatever was on your screen is automatically saved as a picture in your Camera Roll, which can be emailed or tweeted at the touch of a button.

A vast proportion of PC owners haven’t a clue what the Print Screen button does, and a lot of iThing owners have no idea they can take screenshots, but between them these functions have exposed more scandals than the Queen’s had hot dinners.

They’re absolutely vital tools in keeping a handle on the truth, whether it’s on newspaper sites, blogs, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, because anything that’s stored on a hard drive or server you don’t own might not be there in a minute’s time.

The price of truth is eternal vigilance, folks. Keep ’em peeled.

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    45 to “Unclouding the truth”

    1. DaveB says:

      On Macs, to take a screenshot of the entire screen, click Shift-Cmd-F3 together, and the image will be saved to your desktop.
      Alternatively, and better if you don’t want the world to see your entire desktop, press Shift-Cmd-F4 then drag the pointer over just the part you want to take a screenshot of. Again the image will be saved to your desktop.

    2. Vronsky says:

      There are web tools for doing this sort of thing.  I’ve mentioned them before, but anyway. 
       
      Zotero is an add-on for Firefox.  It allows you to take a note of the location of a web site (or any other document you have lying around) or actually capture a copy to your local machine.  You can organise this in a set of folders and add tags, notes and academic citations.  Where a website is set up on proper academic lines the citation information will be collected by Zotero automatically.  I have a very large collection of Zotero folders on an assortment of topics.  They are stored in a database which I can back up and restore to another PC. If I pay a subscription the db will be hosted in the cloud, b ut Zotero is otherwise free.

      WebCite captures an image of a web site and stores it in the cloud, giving you a url to access it.  This is particularly useful for academic work where you need give a citation linking to the material you are actually talking about, not something which has subsequently replaced it. 

      WebCite is probably what I’d recommend for capturing contentious political stuff.  If you place the WebCite button on your shortcuts bar you can do this in a single mouse click.  Nothing is copied to your own machine, all you have to do is make a note of the url that was generated.  WebCite is free but currently asking for donations in order to survive.  A good cause, I hope you’ll agree.

    3. Xaracen says:

      On a Windows PC, if you press Alt and PrintScreen, only the active window is copied to the clipboard, so no need to crop extraneous stuff off. You just need to ensure the window you want to copy is the active one, with the input focus.

    4. Craig says:

      For Android phones/tablets, vol down + power should take a screenshot. 🙂

    5. Gordon Hay says:

      In Windows 8, pressing the windows key + printscreen automatically saves the shot as a .png file to a “screenshots” folder in your “My Pictures” folder. (You may also have to press the FN key as well if printscreen is not the primary function on that key)

    6. Neil Winton says:

      Just to say, if you’re on a Mac, hit “Shift”+”Cmd”+”3” and the screengrab will be saved to your desktop. 

    7. Vronsky says:

      The Wayback Machine is also worth a mention.

    8. Jenny says:

      Really good article and reminder – my friends and I have been talking a lot recently about how we think we need some kind of critical thinking/media literacy course introduced to schools and uni as standard… It is so easy to be taken in. Of course, if you’re an idealist like me, we shouldn’t have to have our eyes peeled for lies all the time because journalists would be doing their job as a service to society and not their back pocket.

    9. tartanfever says:

      I capture quite a lot of video, so i use a programme called ‘Snapz Pro’ from Ambrosia software. It costs £50, but it’s a very versatile tool. It’s for macs – don’t know if they do a PC version.
      Great for capturing video footage from programmes on TV channel’s catch up services. You can use it for screen capture, video and audio.

    10. Bill says:

      The operating system BackTrack 5r3 has some very good forensic tools. You can run the operating system
      from a USB data key or DVD and reboot. Have fun. 

    11. Anthony McGregor says:

      When using windows 7/8 the snipping tool is a good one to
       

    12. scaredy cat. says:

      Any advice on how to do this on an android device?

    13. Ghengis says:

      In Windows vista and later there a great little utility called ‘Snipping Tool’ Search for ‘Snipping’ from the start button. It will appear at the top of the list. You can of course drag the short-cut to the task bar for easy use later.
       
      “You can use Snipping Tool to capture a screen shot, or snip, of any object on your screen” http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-vista/use-snipping-tool-to-capture-screen-shots
      Of course you might sometimes need to remember to include the URL – the web address in your snip, otherwise its source might be contested.

    14. Thomas William Dunlop says:

      On my Android Jelly Bean (4.1) driven Xperia P,holding down power button for 2 seconds brings up a a 3 option menu, one of which is a “take screenshot” command. I do not know if this true for othe Android devices or other versions of this OS (this being my first one, otherwise I am a MAC user and the advice given above is sound enough)

    15. Name required says:

      http://www.newssniffer.co.uk/
       
      sadly doesnt cover the ‘lesser’ media’s but does hint at how common changes to online text is.

    16. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      On a Windows PC, if you press Alt and PrintScreen, only the active window is copied to the clipboard, so no need to crop extraneous stuff off. You just need to ensure the window you want to copy is the active one, with the input focus.”

      See, now I’m learning stuff too!

    17. The best example of history censorship I saw was after Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said on the radio that atheists aren’t fully human and recordings of him saying it started popping up all over the internet. Try and find one, today. They’ll all gone. Many of the articles that featured the recording are still there but the sound file is missing.

    18. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      The Wayback Machine is also worth a mention.”

      Indeed, and various caching tools. But this post was intended as a quick-and-easy guide for anyone, not just those of us who’re a bit more tech-savvy.

    19. CameronB says:

      This is exactly why we need to retain printed media.
       
      Here is a wee prediction of some time in the no so distant future. All information will be controlled centrally, as will all searches, the possible criteria of which will be strictly controlled, centrally. The EU is already heading in this direction.
       
      The ‘free’ press will exist in sheds in areas outwith the centrally controlled and gated ‘safe’ zones. Printed media will become prohibited material, as it is beyond ‘central control’.
       
      This may sound paranoid, but did you imagine storing data in the cloud back in 1979, or even 1984?
       
      Sorry Rev. I know we are supposed to do positive, but you started it. 😉

    20. Doug Daniel says:

      I was going to suggest the Snipping Tool as well. Such a handy wee thing since it saves you the bother of having to put it into Paint to crop it beforehand. I use it all the time at work for doing screenshots for software documentation as well.

    21. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      The best example of history censorship I saw was after Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said on the radio that atheists aren’t fully human and recordings of him saying it started popping up all over the internet. Try and find one, today. They’ll all gone. Many of the articles that featured the recording are still there but the sound file is missing.”

      Aye, this is the point. It’s too easy to think you’ve saved something by posting a link to someone else hosting it. But to be sure, you’ve got to get your own copy.

      Folk think it’s safe because it’s on YouTube or something, but it’s amazing how diligently people can track down and obliterate even a hundred YouTube uploads. The process is largely automated, doesn’t even take effort.

    22. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      Sorry Rev. I know we are supposed to do positive, but you started it.

      No, that IS the point I’m making, you’re absolutely right. Digital stuff is enormously convenient – Christ, who wants a room full of old copies of the Daily Record? – but it comes at a huge price. We need to be acutely aware of that price, and how to get around paying it. We should be grateful to the Scotsman for giving us so many reminders.

    23. CameronB says:

      Isn’t it ironic that the internet has the potential to empower humanity in a similar way to how the Gutenberg press sparked the Renaissance and European Enlightenment, yet it is currently looking as if it will become the means by which human thought will be controlled…..centrally?

    24. Bill says:

      Android; theres an app that screen captures when you shake the phone.

    25. Quick the suns oot says:

      I’ve seen the Scotsman rewrite stories several times. Readers comments to the original article remain which can make them seem completely out of context to someone newly reading the article. There is never any admission in the new article that it has been rewritten.
      Some folk here may find medialens interesting. They dont cover the indyref but media in general.
      http://www.medialens.org/index.php/about-us/what-is-media-lens.html

    26. fitheach says:

      Picozu Shooter a Firefox add-on that allows you to take a screenshot of the whole webpage not just the bit currently visible. Simple but excellent tool. Screenshots can be copied to the clipboard, saved to a file or even given simple edits (via online image editor Picozu).
      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/shooter/

    27. Dougie says:

      Awesome screenshot is a great online tool for capturing a page. It has cropping features built in and will download the file to your pc
      http://awesomescreenshot.com/

    28. Angus McPhee says:

      New sniffer currently tracks bbc and the gaurdian, however on their blog they note.
      “If you’re a Ruby programmer, you can add support for other news sources to News Sniffer by extending the Web Page Parser library, the code is available over there on Github. Happy hacking!”
      Is there a reader with Ruby out there?

    29. Angus McPhee says:

      “yet it is currently looking as if it will become the means by which human thought will be controlled…..centrally?”
      Same thing as printing Bibles Cameron B… leave out the inconvenient bits, add a flourish of your own.

    30. Gordon Bain says:

      @ Rev
       
      I have a screengrab I took this morning of a Facebook conversation on the Vote No…. Page. I think it might be of some interest to you as it has since been removed by the mod. What’s the best way for me to get this to you?

    31. MajorBloodnok says:

      Angus McPhee said: Same thing as printing Bibles Cameron B… leave out the inconvenient bits, add a flourish of your own.
       
      Sounds like an apocryphal story to me.

    32. Dcanmore says:

      This is what worries me about ‘the cloud’ and downloadable files that are still tagged to their origins. Someone somewhere will still have the retained power to change, delete and freeze you out of your own business, to me this new data management is ‘open access’ without the user realising it. And now with social media and data storage companies in cahoots with secret service agencies (they probably don’t have a choice about it) we are creeping into an Orwellian period of government snooping and control.
       
      It might be worth having two computers, one for the internet and general usage and the other as a standalone machine for private data storage that can only be accessed through the keyboard. File transference between the two computers can be made via a pen drive. Point is the user is in total control with less likely a chance of outside interference. But hey-ho it’s a changing world with sophisticated ipads, phones and tablets, but i feel that they are vulnerable to future data loss or manipulation.
       
      Right now governments are trying to shackle the internet after realising the uncontrolled monster (to them) it has become. Newspapers such as The Scotsman and the Daily Mail will champion the taking away of freedoms that people still enjoy while, ironically, hitting out at press regulation. You can’t have it both ways, either it is total freedom of speech and expression, backed up by intrepid truth-seeking journalism, or the population is doped up and strangled. Right now the hands of Orwell’s nightmare are slowly moving around the throat of freedom and democracy and the general population are too busy with X-Factor to care about it.
       
      Really the sad thing about it all is The Scotsman are cutting their own throats by morphing into a ‘Ministry of Truth’, they are self-harming, how much can be changed in a story or a headline these days to satisfy certain political goals? Where does it stop, the self regulation or drawing the line? I can’t see that at all in The Scotsman, there is no discipline anymore, no journalistic nuance, and with that no credibility! Goodbye The Scotsman, you won’t be missed, the only tears shed will come from Brillo, the very guy who poisoned you.

    33. CameronB says:

      Angus McPhee
      I hadn’t wanted to go there, but yes. The priesthood were the information gatekeepers in pre-Reformation Europe, and performed a critical role in the preservation of theocratic oligarchy.
       
      Who will be the new gatekeepers and will a high-tech theocratic oligarchy allow us any freedom of thought?

    34. Dorothy Devine says:

      oooh! it works , it works!
      Many thanks from luddites inc.!

    35. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “I have a screengrab I took this morning of a Facebook conversation on the Vote No…. Page. I think it might be of some interest to you as it has since been removed by the mod. What’s the best way for me to get this to you?”

      Drop me a line via the Contact page and I’ll give you an email address.

    36. callum says:

      the real solution is to setup a “newssniffer” for scotsman publications.  check out newssniffer.co.uk which is setup for BBC and Guardian newspapers.  I’m going to have a look at this and will report back if I can get it working.

    37. Caroline Corfield says:

      newsniffer is very good for BBC articles 
      CameronB – very, very ironic
      there have been articles suggesting that the pressure that governments are now putting on ISPs will lead to the fragmentation of the internet into looser connected peer-to-peer networks. A lot of the most dubious stuff on the internet gets there via p2p networks, lots of ‘illegal’ filesharing now goes on that way. Like underground pamphletting in the past, it does look quite likely. Although hopefully not for a long time, hopefully there will be significant changes to global society as a result of the governments trying to control the internet, as per the Enlightenment. baby steps an’ all that ( article was in New Scientist but ages and ages ago, I shall try and find it but my success with archived New Scientists is a bit rubbish)

    38. Caroline Corfield says:

      wow, this has never happened before, here it is and it looks like you don’t need to subscribe or be registered to see it, but if you do let me know, I’ll ‘acquire’ it somehow, if I have to retype it by hand. 
      http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128211.900-welcome-to-the-age-of-the-splinternet.html?full=true#.UgPXYByd5DQ

    39. CameronB says:

      Caroline Cornfield
      Thanks for that, very interesting. I’m sorry to say, but I think we have already seen the internet at it’s best. Corporate interests and governments will see to that. Sure, it might get faster and brighter, with more flashing lights. But it will be rigidly controlled. Then again, it was invented for the military not the people. We only got play with it because of the economic opportunities it created and possibly so we would willingly provide the security services with all our details and give them a means of spying on us (paranoia?).
       
      This “internet of things” is truly terrifying.
       

    40. CameronB says:

      Caroline Corfield, sorry.

    41. fairliered says:

      Gadwin Printscreen is a very useful freeware program, which allows you to save and/or print whatever is on your screen, just br pressing the PrtSc button.

    42. Garve says:

      This website will allow you to keep a copy of any webpage forever. Just paste the address into the box.
       
      http://archive.is
       
       

    43. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “This website will allow you to keep a copy of any webpage forever. Just paste the address into the box.

      http://archive.is

      That might be the bestest page ever.

    44. Caroline Corfield says:

      Hehe, no problem CameronB happens all the time, my maiden name was a lot easier to handle being simply Orr. 

    45. David says:

      Press F11 for the webpage to occupy the full screen. Then press Prtsc to capture the full screen.

      IrfanView is a great program for Image editing.



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