Post Post-Truth

postfaktisch

‘Fake-news’ and ‘post-truth’ (postfaktisch) are the words dominating today many discussions about truth in communication.

' ... in post-truth [post] has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept [truth] has become unimportant or irrelevant’' (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/press/news/2016/11/15/WOTY-16).

False information or even lies are not new in the information business. And therefore many, and many more websites help to separate wrong from right:

The Reporters’ Lab maintains a database of global fact-checking sites.

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And Alexios Mantzarlis ‘collected 366 links, one for each day of the year …  to understand fact-checking in 2016′.

 

Official Statistics’ Ethical Codex

Officials Statistics collect, analyze and disseminate statistical information since long and are also confronted with wrong citations, misuse of statistics and lies. Many of the ethical codices of official statistics recommend acting against such false information.

‘In 1992, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) adopted the fundamental principles of official statistics in the UNECE region. The United Nations Statistical Commission adopted these principles in 1994 at the global level. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) endorsed the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics in 2013; and in January 2014, they were adopted by General Assembly. This recognition at the highest political level underlines that official statistics – reliable and objective information – is crucial for decision making.’

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Two paragraphs are of special interest:

‘ 2. Professional standards and ethics
To retain trust in official statistics, the statistical agencies need to decide according to strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and professional ethics, on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data.’

AND:

‘4. Prevention of misuse
The statistical agencies are entitled to comment on erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics.’

The European Statistics Code of Practice says in principle 1:

1.7: The National Statistical Institute and Eurostat and, where appropriate, other statistical authorities, comment publicly on statistical issues, including criticisms and misuses of statistics as far as considered suitable.

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N.B: Wikipedia’s page on Misuse of statistics presents a broad view how readers can be fooled by many types of misuse.

It’s dissemination – …

False – and especially deliberately false – information as a weapon in manipulating decisions isn’t new either. But new is how such information spreads: with the help of social media dissemination gains a new level  (some say like earlier Gutenberg’s printing press ).

Anne Applebaum gives a practical illustration of how it can work:

‘I was a victim of a Russian smear campaign. I understand the power of fake news.

It was a peculiar experience, but I learned a lot. As I watched the story move around the Web, I saw how the worlds of fake websites and fake news exist to reinforce one another and give falsehood credence. Many of the websites quoted not the original, dodgy source, but one another. There were more phony sites than I’d realized, though I also learned that many of their “followers” (maybe even most of them) are bots — bits of computer code that can be programmed to imitate human social media accounts and told to pass on particular stories.
….
But it is also true that we are living through a global media revolution, that people are hearing and digesting political information in brand-new ways and that nobody yet understands the consequences. Fake stories are easier to create, fake websites can be designed to host them, and social media rapidly disseminates disinformation that people trust because they get it from friends. This radical revolution has happened without many politicians noticing or caring — unless, like me, they happened to have seen how the new system of information exchange works.’

 

2017

May 2017 become the year of people who know about the power and the dangers of misleading information!
My best wishes to the colleagues in Official Statistics and their professional producing and disseminating information …. and perhaps statistical dissemination will need to be more active on social media, too.

 

 

United Statisticians of Europe

 Head of Elstat (Statistics Greece) faces an official criminal investigation

Kerin Hope (Athens) from  Financial Times reports (27.11.2011):  
‘The head of Elstat, Greece’s new independent statistics agency, faces an official criminal investigation for allegedly inflating the scale of the country’s fiscal crisis and acting against the Greek national interest.
Andreas Georgiou, who worked at the International Monetary Fund for 20 years, was appointed in 2010 by agreement with the fund and the European Commission to clean up Greek statistics after years of official fudging by the finance ministry.
“I am being prosecuted for not cooking the books,” Mr Georgiou told the Financial Times. “We would like to be a good, boring institution doing its job. Unfortunately, in Greece statistics is a combat sport.”’

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Statement of the European Statistical System Committee

 on recent developments concerning ELSTAT in Greece

ESS Logo

Press Release  07.02.13

‘Statement of the Members of the European Statistical System (composed of Eurostat and National Statistical Institutes of EU/EFTA Member States) on recent developments concerning ELSTAT in Greece. 

We the undersigned, who collectively as members of the European Statistical System Committee are responsible for overseeing the production of European Statistics to be in compliance with the highest professional standards throughout the European Union, wish to express our deep concern at recent developments with regard to ELSTAT in Greece, which
we believe can affect not only the integrity of official statistics in that country, but also the functioning of the European Statistical System as a whole.

While fully respecting the independence of national judicial systems and abstaining from commenting on on-going court cases, we are concerned that political debates surrounding judicial action taken against the Head of the Greek statistical office (ELSTAT) and the calling into question of the validity of data which have repeatedly passed the stringent quality checks applied by Eurostat to ensure full compliance with European law seem to disregard commonly agreed European procedures. …

… We are confident that Greek authorities will do everything necessary to protect the independence of ELSTAT, its management and its staff from political and all other interference and support ELSTAT in ensuring that statistics in Greece are produced in line with the principles of the European Statistics Code of Practice.

The European Statistical System will very closely observe the further developments in the Greek statistical system.

The Director General of Eurostat and the Presidents/Directors General
of National Statistical Institutes of the European Union and EFTA’

-> full press release of ESSC (European Statistical System Committee) and link page

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Background information.

Eurostat 2010 Visit to Greece Report

EDP = Excessive Deficit Procedure

————–

‘… from August 2010, when I took up my post, and for five consecutive biannual publications, the Greek public finance statistics have been accepted by Eurostat without any reservations, following the envisaged checks and validations, and the reliability of these statistics is not doubted by any European or international institution. This holds true also for the fiscal deficit
of 2009, for the calculation of which Eurostat has repeatedly and formally declared that it has been carried out in accordance with the rules and methodology that are provided for in a binding manner in European Law….’

Europe has an Open Data Portal, too

The European Commission

opened its Open Data Portal some days ago.
Powered by CKAN.
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Most of the 5811 datasets (97%) are statistical ones provided by Eurostat.
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Top Publishers
Eurostat (5634 datasets)
European Environment Agency (106 datasets)
Joint Research Centre (37 datasets)
Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (12 datasets)
Publications Office (11 datasets)
Directorate-General for Education and Culture (3 datasets)
Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (2 datasets)
Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (1 datasets)
Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry (1 datasets)
Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (1 datasets)‘.

Linked Open Data are provided

An important step! ‘The European Commission Open Data Portal is well aligned with the initiatives of linked data and semantic web technologies. The dataset metadata is available as triples on triple store and attached to the dataset records.’

One App for the moment…

… but an interesting one creating visualisations based on RDF input, with javascript based output (Highcharts charting library).
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cubevizExample
CubeViz is a facetted browser for statistical data utilizing the RDF Data Cube vocabulary which is the state-of-the-art in representing statistical data in RDF. This vocabulary is compatible with SDMX and increasingly being adopted.’

EU Energy Data Visualisation

Last week I attended a meeting on user support at Eurostat and we’ve seen a presentation of a cute tool which was developed during the “Eurostat Hackday”. No, this was not an excercise on how to hack the Eurostat website to jeopardize EU statistics dissemination. It was an Open Knowledge Foundation initiative to build some tools with available EU data without any pre-defined guidelines for developers. The event was supported by Eurostat (but only after overcoming the fear of being hacked ;-)) and was organized on 16th December 2010 (see the website for more information).

On one hand I find the tool very appealing from visual and content point of view, on another it demonstrates the opportunities of making data publicly available and promoting cooperation with universities and independant developers.

You can click on the picture to open the tool or read more on it’s background on the Open Knowledge Foundation Blog.

Enjoy 🙂

EU Energy indicators visualisation tool

Storytelling with maps and graphs – Some examples

It’s like an app, a separate presentation not embedded into the navigation of the mother website. One single link only – behind the NSI logo – gives the context to the whole statistical content offered by Statistics Italia. I speak of … noi italia.

And it’s beautiful. A mix of static and dynamic (flash, delivered by NCVA) content, text (some call it storytelling) with interactive graphs and maps. .

With the same technology used by noi italia Statistics Sweden just launched its Statistikatlas and also some thematical visualisations or vislets integrated into the website.

Compare i.e. with EUROSTATS Table Graph Maps application which has no texts or storytelling included.

Or with Switzerland’s Stat@las.