Table of Contents

Information Distribution Regulations

15. Public Policing of Published Materials

A legally empowered government agency should be responsible for imposing fines on people and entities using a mass communications medium and that have approved the intentional or accidental publication of inaccurate, false or misleading information (information that while technically true, misleads a significant portion of the population to which it was targeted). Regardless of what was said in the ‘fine print’, or not said due to omissions, the impression given by a publication (advertisement, news story, etc.) must be accurate. Members of the mass media should not be allowed to disseminate factually wrong information without sufficient penalties applied to each instance. This agency would also require that the responsible parties publish clear, complete apologies and corrections such that the original audience (or as close to it as possible) would definitely know not just about the occurrence of the error, but also about all relevant details (including perhaps a republication of the original section containing the error) concerning the exact nature of the error (such as when the story containing the error was originally broadcast, as well as other significantly relevant identifying information concerning the original story). Front page errors should require front page corrections, etc. The idea is to encourage the development of more reliable verification processes within the individual disseminators of information. This system of enforcement would be applied to all kinds of media including broadcast, print, advertisements, food labels, instruction manuals and any other means through which any sort of information is transmitted, whether from an original source or from any other entity that duplicates, restates, or paraphrases this information. This proposed agency should also maintain a publicly accessible database that keeps track of the ‘error rates’ of each entity.

This agency would rely upon public policing as the primary means of identifying potentially incorrect information circulating anywhere around society. The incentive for members of the public to participate would be the certainty of receiving a percentage of the fine levied by this agency against the originator and/or subsequent transmitters of such incorrect information, if it turns out that there, indeed, was an error, and they were one of the first to bring it to the agency’s attention.

For example, an amateur chemist would be able to measure the amount of any or all ingredients in a food product to determine if the labels accurately reflect what is actually in the product. If there is a discrepancy, this amateur chemist would be able to notify this government agency and inform them of his results. The agency would review it, conduct further tests if necessary, and make a final determination. If it turns out that the findings of the amateur chemist were in fact based in fact, that amateur chemist would be entitled to receive his reward in the form of a percentage of the financial penalties imposed on the original disseminator of this false information (the food company, in this case). This same process of public policing could be adapted and used for the public policing of virtually all disseminated information (advertisements, news stories, etc). Advertisements or other information suspected of being misleading should be brought to the attention of this agency which could then conduct a study involving either experts and/or a representative sample of people from the area in which the ad or questionable information was or is being distributed to determine if there is a misleading nature to the questionable information. Ads must not just be legally and technically accurate as a result of things that were said in the ‘fine print’ or because of certain omissions, they must also give reasonably accurate impressions. People who find such errors should make sure they are right and notify this agency. Everyone who submits a report of an error should be required to pay a small fee which would be refundable if it turns out that they were right in identifying an error. Perhaps the first person or, better yet, the first few people (maybe 3-4 people) who report the same error should be entitled to receive a portion of the fine levied with the first informant receiving the largest share and each succeeding informant receiving progressively decreasing shares. For news organizations, such apologies and corrections should appear in portions of their media (same timeslots for TV/radio broadcasts or same section in newspapers/magazines, etc.) that would reach an equivalent number of people as the original story that contained the error and be almost as visible (at least for significant corrections). Furthermore, these corrections should cite the title and date of the story containing the error, quote the actual error and then print the corrected version of the passage. This system would help reduce the transmission of erroneous information ranging from misspelled words or simple, undisputed facts to biased reporting.

The amount of the fine would be based on the severity of the mistake or error and the estimated number of people exposed to (who actually heard or read) the mistake. For example, if the fine for a minor spelling error in a book is one cent ($0.01) and 10,000 copies of that book was sold, than the total fine to be paid by the author would be $100. To help ensure accuracy in historical recordings, authors/publishers should be fined for statements/views that turn out to be significantly inaccurate or misleading. If a statement about the Holocaust not occurring during WW II is published, then the fine could be around $5 or $10 per book sold (retail sales). This could also apply to news publishing or broadcasting. If a news story states that four people were confirmed dead in an auto accident, for example, but only two people actually died, then the news outlet should be fined. Likewise, if a reporter uses bias in reporting by taking someone’s quote out of context by only quoting a portion of what an individual said during an interview resulting in the creation of an inaccurate news story, the reporter and/or the news organization he/she works for would be fined. The actual amount of a fine would naturally be determined by the particular facts of each case as decided by either this organization or the courts.

Ideally, for each information disseminator in existence (or at least about which complaints of inaccuracies have surfaced), especially those dealing with news and information, should be given a rating (that is continuously updated) indicating the general reliability of that source. This measure should be based on some sort of ratio which measures and compares the number of inaccuracies, or stories with inaccuracies (whether they be due to factual errors, omissions, ambiguity, etc.) to the total number of stories or total amount of information published. The total number of errors could be divided into categories, such as 1) factual errors, 2) unclear/incomplete/ambiguous errors, and 3) misleading errors, etc. These figures should all be listed on a single website so everyone has a centralized place to check on that media’s accuracy in the reporting and transmitting of information.

Once an error has been officially identified, it is incumbent on the originator of that false information to correct the error immediately. Otherwise, a daily fine amounting to 1% of the total fine should accrue on that originator.


16. Open Data Standardization

Vast quantities of government, health, and other data, figures and statistics are effectively inaccessible to an immeasurable numbers of researchers and other interested people who would be able to help mine and synthesize the data into enormous numbers of very critical, meaningful and far-reaching new data products. The cause of much of this lost potential is the lack of standardization in which information is published by the various entities that gather it.

To increase the efficient flow of this information, it is necessary to enforce that it be published in accordance to some standards upon which systems could be built to harness the data with greater automation.

The standards must be created by people in the open data advocate community who know exactly what to ask for. But a suggestion that should be implemented immediately is the requirement that all data published in PDF format should also be required to be published/posted with the underlying data.


17. Media Rating System

A mandatory, standardized rating system should be applied to all media (books, magazines, Internet sites, movies, videos, games, even stores/shops, etc.). Such a rating system should include categories of offenses, such as violence, foul language, explicit sexual content, etc. Each product should then state on its label how many instances of each of these categories are included in the product. For example, if foul language is used 20 times throughout a movies or song, that product should have the symbol for foul language (or the phrase “foul language”) written on the packaging or label with the number 20 right next to it. The same should be true for each of the other categories. The number of seconds of nudity or explicit sexual content should likewise be clearly stated.

All media packages (like DVD, etc.) should be required to carry ratings for its entire content, either one comprehensive rating or, perhaps, a rating for various sections. For example, it is common practice for movies shown in theaters to contain one rating while that same movie on a DVD may require a different rating due to additional material. Also, many DVDs often contain extra footage, like commentaries, trailers, alternate endings, deleted scenes, etc.) that may often contain material (usually spicier material) that would make the whole DVD earn a different rating (usually, a more restricted rating). Currently, many such DVDs carry an ‘unrated’ rating. This practice should be prohibited.

An internet database listing every single media product that has ever been released (movies, TV shows, books, etc.) should be constructed and made available to the public, free of charge. This database would be searchable using these media rating criteria. For example, if somebody wants to find a movie with only 10 or fewer curse words in it, they could go to the movie’s section of the database and submit this requirement. The database would then return a complete listing of movies that only meet this requirement. People who only want to search through G rated movies could do so very easily. The same could be done for books, magazines, websites, etc.


18. Research Paper Regulations

To further enable the dissemination of research information to all members of society, it is imperative that the costs of access be lowered. These high costs are often manifested in two ways: the first being a high economic cost but the second being a high cost due to the relatively high quantity of ‘noise’, meaning research that is substandard or not accurate or reliable enough to be classified as authentic research. Such works pollute the total pool of research and makes it harder to identify and build upon true previous research results, and overall significantly decreases both the economic and temporal efficiency of further research.

Predatory publishers of scientific research papers need to be eliminated to ensure that more accurate, higher quality information is circulating throughout the scientific and research communities. Low quality research papers should also be eliminated to the best degree possible from being published in legitimate scientific journals. These goals can be helped by requiring more transparency of who is on the journal boards and who actually reviews each scientific paper submitted.

Editor and Reviewer Names Made Public

Perhaps the most useful single requirement to impose on each journal and published research paper in circulation would be to mandate that the the names and contact information of the editors of every journal be made public and published with the journal and that the names and contact information of the researchers and reviewers of every paper also be made public and also published with the paper.

Every Journal or Paper Connected to a Name

In addition, there should be a publicly accessible database, organized by either the journal’s name or editor’s name, that lists every past and current journal with which that editor worked, including the active dates. Similarly, there should also be a publicly accessible database organized by each research paper reviewer’s name that also lists all papers that have ever been reviewed by that researcher.

Research Paper Publication Funding Model

Every academic and research institution, including community colleges (and even perhaps high schools), and public libraries, industries, foundations, and even the public users (who are not associated with any of the previously mentioned entities) should be required to contribute to a fund that supports the lower cost access to a very large and wide-ranging number of journals from all over the world as described in this report. The ultimate costs to these entities would be far lower than the costs would otherwise be using conventional funding structures.


19. Penalties for Indecent Materials

Non-educational vulgarity, profanity, or sexually explicit (pornographic) elements occurring within any type of media should generally be discouraged by placing a fine upon each and every occurrence of such elements. Naturally, in some cases, some of these elements should be completely banned, including a ban to specific segments of the population, especially in order to protect the interests of minors.

Every curse word, every overt or graphic sexual scene/message in movies, TV, songs, printed material, etc., should be fined to reduce their occurrences. The fine for each word or event would depend on how offensive it is, its duration, to what age group the material is targeted (the younger the age group, the higher the fine), etc. Furthermore, these fines would be levied for each time that the curse word or sexual scene is authorized for broadcast or rebroadcast over any medium including movie theaters, TV shows, video rentals, song album purchases, etc. These fines would also be weighted by the estimated number of people exposed.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should have plenary regulatory control over all types of media, including cable, subscription-based, internet, and commercial.


20. Mass Media Access Restrictions

Use of and access to mass media communications should not be protected under free speech rights to the same extent as such rights are granted to individuals. Free speech rights do not include the right of access to mass-communications media, however, such rights are protected for other media. Anybody can say virtually anything they want, but no one should be allowed to use the mass media’s microphone to spread blatant lies or non-solicited information. Certain groups, products, and services should be either banned or restricted from full mass media access and usage.

Groups or entities that engage in the promotion of racism, hate, violence, and immoral disregard for the law, etc., should be prohibited from using the mass media to advance their cause or spread their message (example: TV, radio, newspaper, internet, billboards, Adopt-A-Highway programs, etc.).

The advertisement of major tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, tobacco chew, etc.), high alcoholic content beverages, (including: whiskey, beer, vodka, etc., but excluding wines and other higher class or more formal, ceremonial, or ritualistic alcoholic beverages), sexual services (including obvious prostitutes standing on sidewalks) or sexual materials (i.e., pornography) (except those for the purposes of either educational, medicinal, or medical uses), and gambling (where there exists a high likelihood of significant loss) should be banned across all mass mediums (TV, radio, billboards, periodicals, Internet, etc.).


21. Vulgar Art Cencorship

Art is nothing more than another medium of communication, or even generally, a language. As such, it is also capable of vulgarity and profanity, which may, at times, need to be censored.

Art displayed in private locations (private property without scheduled or designated public viewing) would not be censored. Art on display in designated art viewing locations, such as in museums, must meet certain minimum standards of modesty. Art displayed in public spaces such as parks, sidewalks, etc., should meet higher standards of modesty.

The legislative branch of government having jurisdiction over the location in which a particular work of art is displayed should have the authority to decide, by majority vote, whether that work of art meets the minimum ‘standards of modesty’ required to be displayed in a museum, or in any other public space. City, county, or state legislative bodies may determine an art work’s level of ‘modesty’. Among these legislative bodies, any higher one may overrule any lower one’s permission to display, however, a higher body may not overrule the censorship imposed by a lower body. A work of art should be allowed to be constructed, discussed, or displayed until a decision to censor has been made.


22. Consistent Sound Broadcasting

Advertisers using television, radio, and other audio media should be required to design their ads so that the average perceived sound levels of each ad is not greater than the average perceived sound level of all the ads and programming for the television or radio station (or other media) on which the ad is being played. Perhaps a determination of an average for each of the main audio frequency bands should be required. Each audio media broadcaster would be required to state what these averages are and provide them to potential advertisers upon request.


23. Government Media

The government ought to operate at least one form of media in every area of the country to keep the population informed about it programs and operations, pending policy changes, status of legislation, etc. Using the Internet would perhaps be the cheapest and most flexible of all media options. Nothing having to do with pure entertainment (such as musicals, dramas, plays, art, fiction movies, sports, etc.) should be broadcast over television or radio or printed on government-subsidized media, unless they can generate a profit. Only programming such as news programs or documentary programs and the like should be broadcast.


24. Transcripts – Spoken to Print

Documents defined and portrayed as transcripts of spoken events should actually be real word for word transcripts, perhaps with parenthetical allowances for what was actually meant in cases of misspoken words or phrases. However, the actual misspoken words or phrases should be transcribed exactly as they were originally given. Written copies of speeches printed before the delivery of the speech (especially political speeches) should not be allowed to be described as transcripts unless the speech was given exactly as it appears on the paper, word for word, without any mistakes. Instead, they should be called something like, “transcripts before the fact”, “planned transcripts” or “pretranscripts” instead of just “transcripts”.


25. News Priorities

News organizations should almost always prioritize their news stories so that the lead story would be the one that most significantly affects the greatest number of people for that type of news (local, national, international) and not necessarily the story simply with the greatest public interest. Too much emotionalism seems to be incorporated, at times, into the determination of what news stories to lead with.