Saturday, 12 March 2011

Opinions on Assange case and censorship in Swedish media

Rixstep article “Guardian Censoring Information in Assange Casereports on censorship exercised in The Guardian against links to Professors blogg. Wikileaks Central had reported likewise (see “Possible gag order on the Guardian re Assange case?).

Update. As to the Swedish case, preliminary conclusions contained in the article here below and in the version in Second-Opinion on the responsibilities of the opinion-censorship in the Swedish media apparatus were based in written information provided to us by Twingly. Twingly was specifically informed at the moment of our consultation that I was preparing an article in the issue to be published abroad. After my report was published in the Swedish Second-Opinion Twingly changed their version in 180 degrees and now affirms instead that it was not their clients, the  Swedish press, that exercised censorship to the Assange-articles in Professors blogg. First they say Twingly was not the responsible and implied the newspapers moderators. Now they say the newspapers were not at all the responsible. What has happened after our publication and why Källström is giving this totally new version only those actors know.

The newspapers from their part gave inconclusive versions. Svenska dagbladet informed per email that the problem was of “technical” nature and “beyond their control”, implying that it was caused by an external actor. Expressen (web-redaktionen) informed over the telephone that the responsibility of whether blogs appeared linked to their articles is clearly Twingly’s. But the journalist giving this information when I talked to Expressen's web-redaktionen 17 March, 17:28 (call loged from Italy), in spite of giving her name did not wish to be quoted.  Dagens Nyheter for their part plainly refused to comment. Twingly denied any wrongdoing.

AFTER we contacted Twingly the 11 of March and said that we were preparing a report on the Swedish media’s blog-censorship to be published abroad, Twingly finally linked Naomi Wolf’s guest-article in Professors blog to old articles (over a month ago) in the Swedish press. One of the censured articles – and that became the “pilot case” – was Naomi Wolf’s article in Professors blog the 10 of February 2011 dealing with the alleged Karl Rove’s connection in the Assange case and the wrong doings in the police investigation (“Karl Rove, Sweden, and the Eight Major Aberrations in the Police Sex Crime Reporting Process in the Assange Case. By Naomi Wolf“).

In an essay of sheer deception, Twingly tries now to produce as “probe” that no censorship has been exercised against Wolf’s above article by showing screen shots that visualise such post is linked in the media article (see comment below by Martin Källström). What Källström hides is that they linked Naomi’s article only the 11 of March – after our announce on disclosing - and that they took the screen shots after that date.

The question on who has been behind this request of censorship in the Swedish media apparatus will remain surely unanswered from the part of the authors of such initiative, or from their collaborators.

The email-correspondence between Martin Källström, Twingly’s CEO, and I is published in the post Censorship of Assange-articles in the Guardian and Swedish press. The readers will judge their selves. For my part, case closed.

Summary. This analysis is a follow up of a report in Second-Opinion (“Svensk media censurerar i Assange-fallet”, 2011-02-21) reviewing possible actors in the alleged censorship of the Swedish media apparatus towards opinion-articles. One conclusion here is that the link-search engines cannot be held responsible for the filtering [see update above]. Further, dissimilar levels regarding censorship are found among different newspapers. In Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet problems in the likings could have been in certain cases technically-based, while in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter those would be clearer ascribed to an active policy of selective censorship towards critical blog-opinions and analyses. Martin Källström, Twingly’s Chief Executive Officer, which manifested among other:

''The newspapers which are connected to Twingly get reports from their readers if the content of a blog is inadequate. When such report arrives in Twingly’s administration-gear, intervenes the “moderator” (newspaper’s Web-controller) and look into the blog’s content. . .” “You have a serious and good blog, I cannot think that some newspaper would blockade your article.''

I commented: "In the above phrase “some newspaper would blockade your article” Twingly
unequivocally admits that a Swedish newspaper would exercise censure against the publications whose content is deemed inappropriate. The question remains:  who authored the request for censuring BOTH Naomi Wolf’s and Andrew Kreig’s articles about Karl Rove, Assange and Sweden, published in the Swedish based Professors blog?"

In a letter of 11 March 2011 to the Company’s Executive Director Martin Källström, Professors blogg asked Twingly Sweden to kindly help us to elucidate these two items:

“A) Where in the linking process (Professors blogg - Twingly - Swedish newspaper) the referred censorship or filtering of the referred linked articles is exercised? B) What would be the reason for the said censorship?"

Twingly answered promptly and manifested that “the most probable cause is a technical issue, and if so it will be very easily resolved.” The Company added that “If it is not a technical issue, then it is the moderators at the newspapers themselves that have made the decision to not link to your blog posts. If so they will be able to give the exact reason why and I'm sure they will publish the link after talking to you."

The fact is, as I reported previously in Second-Opinion, that I DID talk with the newspapers about this situation for over a month ago. Unfortunately, in one case (SvD) the message was inconclusive and in the other (DN), the consultation was plainly disregarded by the newspaper which did not answer at all.

The link-search engine
After Twingly investigated the technical issue in the base of a sample of links I provided, they concluded that their linking procedure it has been made correctly, according to their prevalent criteria in the “picking-up” of links from the blogosphere. Namely, the engines
surveillance all blogs and eventually detect those links corresponding to media-articles provided those media-links are located among the first fifty links included in a blog-post text.

In the context of analysing the Swedish Trial by Media against Assange I have previously reported the problems in the linking process (to Swedish mainstream-media articles) of some guest-columns and own analyses published in Professor blog.  Regarding the system used by Swedish newspapers in order to  display in their articles  links to blog-posts related to those issues, I reported in the above referred article an earlier commentary by

This is the synthesis of the positive and negative outcomes of the test using as pilot case a blog-post I provided. In this particular post (the pilot case) I had recently added extra links corresponding to a list of new articles published on the same subject in Profesors blogg: I) Technical staff at Twingly examined first that blog-post and they  anticipated a  negative result in pinging, meaning that the pilot blog-post could not have been possibly detected by the search-engine because of a) the number of links in the post exceeded N= 50, and b) the media-links were placed in the text in a position below  the inserted link number 50, which it is the cut off in the  engine's surveillance  for each blog. II) Then I moved higher up in the text of that same blog-post (the experiment pilot-post) the links corresponding to several related media-articles, in order to allow them to  be detected before  all the other links. III) Finally, using that modified blog-post Twinlgy performed the Ping procedure and this time the pilot blog-post was linked almost instantaneously. I checked from my site the first of those links in the pilot blog-post and confirmed that the ping process functioned.

The above procedure would indicate that, according to an standard technical procedure, Twingly would have performed the linking from the blog towards the newspapers’ articles in every case in which the media-articles links were correctly placed (before N= 50). This then would rule out that the problem would have been occasioned by a failure of Twingly’s technical procedure specifically in regard to my pinging.

Although Professors blogg have never signalled Twingly as "the responsible" for these non-linking episodes, I had mentioned Twingly as one of the actors operating in the linking system with reference to the articles in PB. Those assumptions regarding the linking system in the media apparatus have to be reconsidered.

In concrete, my conclusion is that Twingly has to be ruled out as a possible actor – within the media apparatus – in the filtering or censorship of Swedish blog-articles
[see update above].

Which leave us with the rest of the actors.

The owners
There are no conclusive studies on Corporate censorship in Sweden, although the consolidation of ownership in Sweden’s main newspapers reduces the number of owners basically to two: Bonnier (principally) and Schibsted. The newspapers usually linked by Swedish blogs are Dagens Nyheter (owned by Bonnier), Svenska Dagbladet (owned 99,4% by Schibsted), Aftonbladet (owned 49,9% by Schibsted, and then LO), and Expressen (owned by Bonnier).

As I have already stated in
article on the case Assange I published in Newsmill, I would not believe that there would be such determinant censorship existing in Sweden as exercised from the owners of the newspapers towards the editors or newspapers staff. This should include the on-line editions. Ergo, this actor is also ruled out.

The Swedish newspapers
With the help of Twingly’s “rules of the game” criteria which they provided me I tested anew the linking processes departing from Professors blogg’s articles on the Assange case.

Twingly has given guarantees that – provided the links to the media articles is localized in the blog-text within the range of the first 50 included links, the article would be picked up by Twingly and definitely be sent to the newspapers so they could placed in their blog-list linking to their respective article.

As referred above, the test I performed 11 March, still in contact with Twingly, resulted in that I finally could confirm that the "pilot blog-article", as we saw almost immediately, had became visibly as linked in the newest article of SvD regarding the Assange-theme. I had also linked the pilot post at the same time to an article in DN. Testing over and everything looked all right. I thanked Twingly.

However, as I saw it few hours later, the same article did not appear linked to the article of Dagens Nyheter. Astonishingly, Dagens Nyheter instead ran a message at the bottom of the DN article stating: “This article has no blog-posts” [Artikeln saknar blogg-poster].

Further, the “test-article” from Professors blog also had disappeared from the new SvD article - as we saw instants after doing the linking test med Twyling - although it remained (still until now, a day after) in the SvD’s older articles.

In the context of the present analysis, it is highly relevant to corroborate here that the very same article (“
Karl Rove, Sweden, and the Eight Major Aberrations in the Police Sex Crime Reporting Process in the Assange Case. Guest-article by Naomi Wolf”) that 11 March with the assistance of Twingly staff it became finally linked (to some of the articles it was meant to), had not been accepted by the newspapers during the originally linking-process I performed manually on the 10 February 2011.

And this, particularly considering the fact that the article of Naomi Wolf in its original edited version in Professors blogg contained only 28 links all together (including n= 11 “labels”) prior the given media-links, ergo absolutely within the N= 50 consecutive-links range determined by Twingly.

As source for the above I have the two edited versions of that guest-column of Naomi Wolf as confirmed to me per email by Blogger 2/10/2011 12:30:00 AM respectively 2/10/2011 02:56:00 PM (with the links to the newspaper-articles included).

All which reinforce the panorama on that is not Twingly, but the Swedish main newspapers which have in the past exercised this arbitrary filtering.

In the same fashion, there are other articles from Professors blogg, which, in spite of falling within the above described “50-links limit” neither have been linked in requested media articles. One example is my analysis “
Does Sweden Inflict Trial by Media against Assange?” of 20 February 2011. The article has a total of 36 links in the text preceding the media-links which appear at the end of the article. The blog-link was filtered by most of the articles in the Swedish mainstream media in spite of the direct relevancy of the subject treated in conjunction to such articles.

Yet another example of link-censorship situations, in which the  blog-posts was not linked at all by the Swedish mainstream press on spite it treated the very same subject as in the newspaper article, is the Professors blogg’ analysis
"Comments on Judge Riddle's verdict & and lawyer Jennifer Robinson’s interview" (27 Feb 2011). I essayed to link this post to the article in SvD “Hurtig: Jag blir förbannad” of 24 Feb 2011. At the time of the linking the article in PB had only n= 33 links (or N= 44 in case n= 11 labels are also counted as “links” in the process. Further 3 links were added 7 March). In other words, all within the range of the 50 links operated by the Twingly system. The article was not linked, as seen in the list of blogs appearing at the end of the SvD article.

The pictures below correspond to the blogs listed (two pages) in the Article "Hurtig: Jag blir förbannad" as it was seen 12 March 2011. Professors blogg's post Comments on Judge Riddle's verdict & and lawyer Jennifer Robinson’s interview is NOT included in the list

I have encountered the following situation regarding the newspaper Expressen.

Just beside the article at Expressen 10 March 2011 "
Polisen vän med kvinna som anmälde Assange", the newspaper run a markedly visible box stating “Do blog about this article. Comment and link this article to your blog. Then your article it will be seen here”. [”Blogga om den här artikeln. Kommentera och länka till den här artikeln i din blogg. Då kommer ditt inlägg att synas här”] and they give also there instructions as how to link Pinga din blogg hos Twingly så hittar vi den.- However, as seen in this picture taken 12 March 2011, Expressen conceals the phrase “Show the most linked / most recent blog-article“ with the trick of using white fonts against a white background (so the text listing the eventual blogs cannot possibly be visualized, for the background has the same white colour!).

Of course there were many posts in the blogosphere following that Expressen’s article. As listed in that day several bloggers  even characterized the referred Expressen's article as a pseudo-scoop [see update above].

Further, dissimilar levels regarding the discussed censorship are to be found among different newspapers. In the case of Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet problems in the likings from our blog could have been in certain cases technically-based, while the case of the main Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter it would be clearer ascribed to an active policy of selective censorship towards critical blog-opinions. Finally, the situation reported here about newspaper Expressen has to be investigated further, as a technical problem could explain the absence of the above mentioned blog-listing. [see update above]. The denouncing of all cases regarding Swedish media which essay selectively blog-linking with regard to the covering  of the Swedish case against Assange, should be strongly continued until such censorship praxis it brings to an end.

Conclusion: A selective censorship from sectors of the mainstream press has been exercised  against blog-opinions and fact-based analyses contradicting articles by that media, in connection to the case Assange as reported in Professors blogg. Who has authored this censorship initiative or been able to implemented is unclear, as actors in the Swedish media apparatus blame each other.

The arrogance displayed by some actors in the Swedish media in their pursuit of censorship, to hide, minimize or distort the truth on the irregularities in the Swedish case against Assange and Wikileaks – including those committed by the Swedish media themselves – contrast with the humble yet effective dedication of thousands independent analysts, nonetheless professional, unbound and liberate, gathered in the world forums and blogospheres.

Sweden complains these days about prestige losses abroad, but Swedes should start by protesting and demand a fair media report on this and all issues affecting the Nation. Also a significant part of the budget allowing these media to indulge in such discussible ethical adventures, are in fact public funds. The public should own the truth. Those in power should own the shame.

I thank here CEO Martin Källström, Interface Developer Kristoffer Forsgren and staff at Twingly Sweden for valuable technical information during the test-linking process.
The opinions here are exclusively mine.

Marcello Ferrada-Noli

Wikileaks, J Assange, Assangemedia, yttrandehefrihet, transperanswikileaks intressant,   bloggosfären, twingly

Other articles in Professors blogg on the Swedish case Assange case

  7 Dec 2010. Analysis: Why Sweden revenge against Assange


  1. I think ure doing a very good and thorough job on the Assange case! Swedish media sure needs to be exposed!

  2. Hello Marcello,

    Thank you for inviting me to comment on this post. In spite of my efforts to be as thourough as possible in describing how Twingly works, I'm truly sorry that I failed to provide enough information. I wish you had included your concerns above in the information you provided to me, in which case I could have addressed them properly before.

    Twingly would not work at all without a few limitations. One of the limitations is that any specific blog only can contribute a single blog post to each article. This limitation is in place because otherwise Twingly backlinks would be far too inviting for spammers, and one blog could simply link dozens of blog posts to the same article to mechanically dominate the debate there.

    If you look at these screenshots from some of the articles that you have linked to in your blog: , you can see that your posts certainly are not banned from the newspapers. However, you can notice that your blog only appears once on each article. In the cases where you have linked more than once to the same article, only the latest blog post is linked from that specific article.

    If you or any of your readers have similar concerns in the future (no matter how small!), I would like to encourage you to get in touch with us at so that we can sort out what is going on.

    Best regards,

    Martin Källström
    CEO Twingly