Against the tide

Written By: - Date published: 7:45 am, March 27th, 2013 - 30 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

I’ve been reading the Law Commission report that proposes a News Media Standards Authority to – voluntarily – cover all news agencies, including blogs. It’s a bit sad, really. It’s clearly been written by a group of old white men with no real idea now modern media works.

Let’s start with principles. They want to make you pay to join a ‘voluntary’ privately-owned organisation, which will be the gatekeeper for who gets the news media’s legal rights. It won’t even be a statutory body – it will be completely separate from government and make its own rules, yet it will be the decider on a slew of legal rights.

Don’t have money to pay? You don’t get those legal rights. Don’t want to pay? You don’t get those legal rights. Don’t meet this private, unaccountable organisations’ rules? You don’t get those legal rights.

Of course, there are some old bodies that have those kinds of powers and similar unaccountability – the descendents of guilds like the Law Society, but these are established by statue and their powers and rules are thereby constrained.

This NMSA organisation would be run by people who are not appointed by either government or the new industry – I’m guessing these perfectly impartial experts would descend from heaven riding on unicorns.

The Law Commission’s genius idea is to let some private organisation staffed by God knows who choose which news organisations have news media rights and which don’t. It’s one of the dumbest things I’ve heard this year.

Next, the practical side. They basically want to extend the existing press complaints system, joke that it is, to online media. Bringing a complaints process to the blogs would be an unworkable farce. Here’s what would happen.

There would be a dozen complaints a day against each of the major blogs. Each side would attempt to tie the other in knots, costing it time and money fighting against complaints. Blogs (assuming they can afford to join the authority in the first place, there’s no indication of the cost) would react by disengaging from the complaints process, if only so they wouldn’t exhaust their time and money fighting nuisance actions, meaning nothing would ever get sorted. If anything ever got decided, it would be ignored – blogs could always quit NMSA – not that it could impose any real punishments anyway.

Want a model for what would happen? Look at the Official Information Act. The side out of government tries to trawl through departments and other government bodies looking for information that the party in power wants hidden. The government reacts by delaying replies and refusing to release information (when it admits the information exists at all). The opposition complains to the Ombudsmen, which the government gives ignores and obstructs and generally gives the run around to the point where the OIA complaints backlog extends into the thousands and there’s basically no hope of ever getting any suppression of information over-turned.

That’s how systems get corrupted by the highly politically charged environment – and that’s departments and the Ombudsmen! What’s some tinpot ‘authority’, with no legal authority, going to do? It would be a joke from Day 1.

So, why’s the Law Commission gone down this path? It’s about trying to maintain a media elite in the face of the mass democratising power of the Internet by setting up an expensive gatekeeper that will keep out the rabble and give a quality mark to those inside the tent. The report specifically refers to the ‘brand power’ of being a member of NMSA – so naive, why not just get journos to wear ‘I’m part of the media establishment’ t-shirts? That’ll make people respect ’em.

Like most attempts to swim against the tide of history, NMSA will splutter a bit and then sink beneath the waves. If it ever gets going at all.

30 comments on “Against the tide”

  1. lprent 1

    I read the cyberbullying extract last year.

    After reading it, especially the comment privacy breaches required, I wrote a plugin that hashed email addresses and IP numbers at arrival – which can be deployed at any time. Damn thing would have required us to give the email and IPs to a compliant on accusation. As you say, we’d get several of those a day once the bully “outers” realised how useful it was as a tool.

    And it was a considerable factor in my decision to move the database server offshore and to hide it from idiot level searchs (ie whaleoil equivalent tech).

    Netsafe (the body that was suggested for the controlling body) are nonentities in the net world and despite knowing about them for what must be close to a decade, I have neither never seen them working the net, nor seen them discussed. I suspect that it is simply a talking fest with as much affinity for the net as the Law Commision.

    The ther thing that I disliked about the whole thing was the attempt throughout it, to move the responsibility from the system operators for monitoring and moderating their site. Great for wide open sites like trademe (someone else monitors the site for you). A lot less so when some net illiterates are appointed or self-appoint themselves as Mrs Grundy on deliberately run sites like this one, or Granny Herald online.

    And after all the minister that it went to was Judith Collins, well known for her ineffectual posing with the law – like crushing cars. Sheis exactly the type of fool who’d try to impose this (voluntary my arse)

    I see that the current “media” round looks like the same kind of stupidity. My view is that we avoid the stupidity. I can’t see any point in us paying to expend time educating net nuisances. And I cannot see any benefits to this site or even most net sites.

    • karol 1.1

      Glad you were on the case so early, Lynn. I didn’t understand this bit – a typo?

      Damn thing would have required us to give the email and IPs to a compliant on accusation.

      • lprent 1.1.1

        Typing on the iPad..

        The papers I saw on cyber bullying would have required that when the supervising body received a complaint, then they could demand the site release details about the person making the comment to them, that would then be passed to the complainant.

        The idea being that they might be able to sort it out between them or as part of a mediation process. It took some time for me to determine that there appeared to be no restrictions on that. No determination to that point if the complaint wasn’t just frivolous.

        Reality is that would have been used as a outing mechanism and really looked like an irresponsible idiot rogues like Whaleoil wrote it. After all he has spent the last 5 years accusing just about every author on this site of being various people with no evidence, and usually incorrectly. And Pete George now has a site that seems to do little else apart from speculating who commentators are.

        The proposed bill was being touted as being for kids on facebook and the like. But that wasn’t what showed in the detail. It looked to me to be a rather silly way to legislatively strip psuedonyms from the net.

    • Rogue Trooper 1.2

      “God save television, keep the programmes pure…
      God save William Grundy, from falling in manure
      God save all us sinners, God save your blackest sheep
      God save the good samaritan and God save the worthless creep!” 😉

  2. DH 2

    I’m not going to wade through the 394 page report but I did read the separate summary. I thought it very well written until it fell apart here;

    A statutory definition of “news media”
    ……

    “a significant element of their publishing activities involves the generation and/or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value;”
    …….

    further to that here;

    ““News” should be interpreted broadly to include news, current affairs, news commentary and content which purports to provide the public with a factual account and involves real people.”

    It’s the word ‘opinion’ that clangs. Opinion isn’t news. It’s opinion. The authors make this point earlier in the summary;

    “However, as these Inquiries also recognised, the news media continues to be a powerful institution in its own right. As well as facilitating the democratic process it is also potentially capable of distorting it through unfair, selective or misleading reporting. It is capable of derailing the administration of justice, and causing significant financial, emotional and reputational harm. It is therefore in the public’s interest that there is an effective mechanism for holding the news media to account for the exercise of its power.”

    There appears to be no mechanism for stopping media outlets using opinion to exercise their power unfairly. The editorial carries considerable weight, especially so when it’s from an institution seen to be impartial and trusted.

    Incidentally I can’t see blogs like TS or Kiwiblog being counted as ‘news media’ there. They don’t fit the criteria.

    • lprent 2.1

      If it is anything like the one I read last year, the report will be turgid, wandering and just outright repetitive.It will also have quite a few parts that directly contradict itself (like the ones you have picked above out of the summary).

      The problem is that there is little boundary between what we do and what the news media do when you use “…aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value” as the criteria. Because we do all of that all of the time. There is a separation when you use “…content which purports to provide the public with a factual account and involves real people”, but even that tends to be fuzzy. We write on real people all of the time, frequently under our real names, and the facts we are using frequently come from our own observations – which is about as factual as you can get.

      Consider for instance that post by Helen Kelly about the ILO conference, or me attending the Labour party conference. And then you have the Herald. Think on columnists like Damien Grant from the Herald who routinely writes the most awful crap that is purported to be factual but is in fact poorly based opinion. And I’d frequently say the same about Fran O’Sullivan who editorialises poorly backed opinion rather than reporting facts often.

      Most journalists are rather poorly educated outside of journalism and whatever they have picked up on the job. They are generalists by nature. It frequently gets shown up by people with more skill and experience out in the blogs. I suspect that tearing a hole in a real journalist’s facts with reality would be part of the second definition.

      I realise that I’m picking the extremes here, but really this proposal is trying to impose a arbitrary standard on a continuum. That is a guaranteed way to cause issues of definition.

      • DH 2.1.1

        Yes. The people doing the report really haven’t been following the metamorphosis of the media into a creature that’s only part news.

        It’s pretty obvious the media have seen blogs as a bit of threat to their business model, having started their own blogs. Reporters & journalists never used to write opinion pieces in the ‘paper, that’s just not their role. Further to that they’ve changed the old ‘letter to the editor’ into the commentary section which is a format that can be used to cleverly manipulate public opinion by virtue of loading it with authors of a certain persuasion.

        The main point being that blogs and opinion simply aren’t news. Opinions are by definition biased to the person holding the opinion. The TS makes no pretence of being impartial and a fundamental platform for the news media is that they are impartial. This report just doesn’t address that IMO.

        • lprent 2.1.1.1

          The TS makes no pretence of being impartial…

          We’re definitely more in the earlier broadsheet model rather that the vast capital requirements of large printing presses. We argue a point of view.

          ….and a fundamental platform for the news media is that they are impartial.

          The problem with that was that they never really were. If you go back and read some of the stuff in Papers Past or the like, and then compare with what is now known about the events that they were reporting on… Well you realise that most of what they were expressing was opinion of the writer in the structuring/direction of the story scattered with a few facts. It is the missing information that is the most interesting.

          All “news” is biased and partial. The usual problem is to find out in what way. I prefer the model that the Economist and this site follows of having writers (ours) and/or editorial policies (Economist) with known biases to the hypocrisy of having hidden partiality.

          Let the users decide base don a variety of viewpoints and sources – which is what they are ever increasingly doing.

          • DH 2.1.1.1.1

            “all “news” is biased and partial.”

            Can’t agree with you there. Bias in ‘news’ falls under the remit of the Press Council, BSA, and the new system they want to introduce. It’s the non-news part of the media which is more partial and not covered.

            A commentary by someone like John Armstrong of the Herald isn’t news. It’s opinion. He writes news sometimes but his byline is opinion and that wouldn’t typically fall within the purview of the media complaints processes.

            There is scope to complain about bias on the basis they’re an employee of the news organisation concerned but that’s a much more difficult case to argue since the retort would be that the views expressed are honest opinion and not news.

            You couldn’t complain about the likes of Fran O’Sullivan because she’s not an employee of the Herald, she’s probably paid for her articles but again they’re not news.

            • xtasy 2.1.1.1.1.1

              DH – But is that not why we get so damned few news. The media are too scared to be held accountable for “real” news, so engage in endless drivel.

              • DH

                That’s different IMO. Good investigative journalism is labour intensive and costly, media beancounters probably discovered they can make more money playing to the voyeur in people. Threre’s more than one kind of porn. I think we get crap news because it costs them less but still sells copy.

            • lprent 2.1.1.1.1.2

              Not really. The “news” is only as good as the information that is known at the time. It usually has only a passing resemblance to what is known in 20-20 hindsight in later histories.

              Now a lot of the time when you read through the subsequent reports (just been digging my way through some of the material from the Chilcot Inquiry on WMD in Iraq), the journo’s have had a pretty good idea about the line of horseshit they were being fed. However they are often not able to have credible alternate sources that could be made news.

              The classic example of this was the many cover and propaganda stories floating around about the Zimmerman telegram that helped to precipitate the US into the first world war.

              Much of the time what passes for “news” can only be justified on the basis of some kind good faith blindness at the time. Of course this is one of the reasons that journos get so cynical

    • freedom 2.2

      “a significant element of their publishing activities involves the generation and/or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value;” (bold mine)

      ” generation”
      What is represents is hyper relevant when placed in the Net but that pales when compared to the masterful fabricated vehicles that congest the information highways of traditional media in Television Radio and Print. For me this simple word captures what is an incredibly important and regularly discarded factor in the discussion on modern journalism and its impact on our society. The fact they do generate the news. With proud naivety I will always believe that is meant to be done by the world outside the newsroom.

      p.s. thank you to Lprent, and the cadre of good souls that keep The Standard alive.
      Thank you for the forethought, the care, and for allowing all of us to do whatever it is we do

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    There would be a dozen complaints a day against each of the major blogs.

    Only if they’re bloody lucky. More likely to be a few dozen if not hundreds.

    It would be a joke from Day 1.

    Which sounds to me is the likely desired outcome. It doesn’t sound like anyone who’s been involved with the project is actually out to make the media accountable.

    It’s about trying to maintain a media elite in the face of the mass democratising power of the Internet by setting up an expensive gatekeeper that will keep out the rabble and give a quality mark to those inside the tent.

    And probably that too.

    • Rogue Trooper 3.1

      it was interesting to see Cameron on the tele suggesting he and Farrar are “reputable blogs”; hmmm.

      • tc 3.1.1

        Reputable in their eyes, as most sociopaths are reputable persons is in their own eyes.

        ya gotta love their blatant self promotion that they possess the high ground, what a fun place that must be with the colin craigs FF/SST folks, maybe enough room for a tamaki or 3.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    A system to out blog commentators? Who have they been talking to, Clare Curren?

  5. Raa 5

    A note to journalists and others trawling this site for ideas.

    “How to cite a blog post”

    http://blogs.plos.org/mfenner/2011/07/21/how-to-formally-cite-a-blog-post/

  6. ghostrider888 6

    What is interesting, is finding articles some ghost, not a million miles away from this keyboard, posted on The Standard being echoed, sometimes weeks, or months, later in the Dailies or another blog-site. hmmm…just saying it could be Imagination 😉

  7. xtasy 7

    I read Farrar’s comments on this (rather favourably), and now I read lprent’s comments. Well, on the balance of experience and trust I will give lprent the benefit of the doubt of being more correct in judgment. Yet I will reserve my right to read up and inform myself further, if I can.

    This seems to be quite important stuff, for real.

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  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    7 days ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • Government says it will now build just one really nice home
    Following publication of this article, the Ministry has requested it to be noted that this supplied image is not necessarily representative of what the final house will look like, and it “probably won’t be that nice.” As part of today’s long-anticipated reset of the Government’s flagship KiwiBuild policy, Housing Minister ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Imperialism and your cup of coffee
    Over the next week or two we will be running three synopses of parts of the opening chapter of John Smith’s Imperialism in the 21st Century (New York, Monthly Review Press, 2016).  The synopsis and commentary below is written by Phil Duncan. Marx began Capital not with a sweeping historical ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Still juking the stats
    The State Services Commission and Ombudsman have released another batch of OIA statistics, covering the last six months. Request volumes are up, and the core public service is generally handling them within the legal timeframe, though this may be because they've learned to extend rather than just ignore things. And ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Hard News: Time for a New Deal: 25 years on
    In 1994, I was editing an ambitious street mag called Planet, from a fabled office at at 309 Karangahape Road. The thirteenth issue of the magazine was published in the winter of that year and its cover embodied a particularly ambitious goal: the end of cannabis prohibition.I wanted to do ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Not impressed
    KiwiBuild was one of the Ardern government's core policies. The government would end the housing crisis and make housing affordable again by building 100,000 new homes. Of course, it didn't work out like that: targets weren't met, the houses they did build were in the wrong place, and the whole ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Solar beats coal
    As the climate crisis escalates, it is now obvious that we need to radically decarbonise our economy. The good news is that its looking easy and profitable for the energy sector. Wind is already cheaper than fossil fuels, and now solar is too:The levellised cost of solar PV has fallen ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • A Step Too Far.
    A Crown Asset? For reasons relating to its own political convenience, the Crown pretends to believe that “No one owns the water.” To say otherwise would re-vivify the promises contained in the Treaty of Waitangi – most particularly those pertaining to the power of the chiefs and their proprietary rights ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Where Money Comes From
    Most people would say, no doubt, that they have a pretty good idea of what money is. They live with the reality of money every day. It is what is needed to buy the necessities of life and to maintain a decent standard of living. You get money, they would ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • Banned by the Green Party leadership: Jill Abigail on women’s rights and trans rights
    The article below was an opinion piece that appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Te Awa (the NZ Green Party’s newsletter) and on the Greens website.  In keeping with their policy of hostility to women defending women’s right to female-only spaces, Green bureaucrats have since removed the opinion piece.  ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The fallacy of the proximity argument.
    Longer term readers may remember my complaining that, as a political scientist, it is burdensome to have non-political scientists wanting to engage me about politics. No layperson would think to approach an astrophysicist and lecture him/her on the finer details of quarks and black holes, but everybody with an opinion ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago
  • Where We Stood: Chris Trotter Replies To Stevan Eldred-Grigg.
    Joining The Fight: Stevan Eldred-Grigg's argument for New Zealand staying out of the Second World War fails not only on the hard-headed grounds of preserving the country’s strategic and economic interests; and not just on the soft-hearted grounds of duty and loyalty to the nation that had given New Zealand ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Universities back the climate strike
    On September 27, School Strike 4 Climate will be striking for a future to pressure the government for meaningful climate action. This time, they've asked adults to join them. And now, Lincoln University and Victoria University of Wellington have signed on:Victoria University of Wellington has joined Lincoln University in endorsing ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

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