Fact Checkers Wage War On Independent Media
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Fact Checkers Wage War On Independent Media

Welcome back Tweedsters, In the winter of
2018, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter deleted the accounts of many alternative media outlets.
Among those wiped out in the coordinated purge were popular sites that scrutinized police
brutality and U.S. interventionism, like The Free Thought Project, Anti-Media, and Cop
Block, along with the pages of journalists like Rachel Blevins. Facebook claimed that these pages had “broken
our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.” However, sites like The Free
Thought Project were verified by Facebook and widely recognized as legitimate sources
of news and opinion. John Vibes, an independent reporter who contributed to Free Thought,accused
Facebook of “favoring mainstream sources and silencing alternative voices.” Less than three weeks after Clinton’s defeat,
the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg published a dubiously sourced report headlined, “Russian
propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news.’” The article hyped up a McCarthyite type effort
by a shadowy, anonymously run organization called PropOrNot to blacklist some 200 American
media outlets as Russian “online propaganda.” The alternative media outfits on the PropOrNot
blacklist included some of those recently purged by Facebook and Twitter, such as The
Free Thought Project and Anti-Media. Among the criteriaPropOrNot identified as signs
of Russian propaganda were “Support for policies like Brexit, and the breakup of the
EU and Eurozone” and “Opposition to Ukrainian resistance to Russia and Syrian resistance
to Assad.” PropOrNot called for “formal investigations by the U.S. government” into
the outlets it had blacklisted. A new, and seemingly related initiative appeared
out of the blue, this time with backing from a bipartisan coalition of Democratic foreign
policy hands and neocon Never Trumpers in Washington. Called the Alliance for Securing
Democracy (ASD), the outfit aimed to expose how supposed Russian Twitter bots were infecting
American political discourse with divisive narratives. The initiative was immediately endorsed by
John Podesta, the founder of the Democratic Party think tank the Center for American Progress.
Julia Ioffe, the Atlantic’s chief Russiagate correspondent, promoted the bot tracker as
“a very cool tool.” Unlike PropOrNot, the ASD was sponsored by
one of the most respected think tanks in Washington, the German Marshall Fund. Another application in the elites aresenal
of media control is Newsguard Technologies, which describes itself as simply a “news
rating agency”. However, further examination of this organization
reveals that it is funded by and deeply connected to the U.S. government, neo-conservatives,
and powerful monied interests, all of whom have been working overtime since the 2016
election to silence dissent to American forever-wars and corporate-led oligarchy. More troubling still, Newsguard — by virtue
of its deep connections to government and Silicon Valley — is lobbying to have its
rankings of news sites installed by default on computers in U.S. public libraries, schools,
and universities as well as on all smartphones and computers sold in the United States. In other words, as Newsguard’s project advances,
it will soon become almost impossible to avoid this neocon-approved news site’s ranking
systems on any technological device sold in the United States. Worse still, if its efforts
to quash dissenting voices in the U.S. are successful, Newsguard promises that its next
move will be to take its system global. Newsguard has received considerable attention
in the mainstream media of late, having been the subject of a slew of articles in the Washington
Post, the Hill, the Boston Globe, Politico, Bloomberg, Wired, and many others just over
the past few months. Those articles portray Newsguard as using “old-school journalism”
to fight “fake news” through its reliance on nine criteria allegedly intended to separate
the wheat from the chaff when it comes to online news. Newsguard separates sites it deems worthy
and sites it considers unreliable by using a color-coded rating — green, yellow, or
red — and more detailed “nutrition labels” regarding a site’s credibility or lack thereof.
Rankings are created by Newsguard’s team of “trained analysts.” However, some of the rankings Newsguard itself
has publicized show that it is manifestly uninterested in fighting “misinformation.”
How else to explain the fact that the Washington Post and CNN both received high scores even
though both have written stories or made statements that later proved to be entirely false? The Washington Post, whose $600 million conflict
of interest with the CIA goes unnoted by Newsguard, has also published false stories since the
2016 election, including one article that falsely claimed that the “Russian hackers”
had tapped into Vermont’s electrical grid. It was later found that the grid itself was
never breached and the “hack” was only an isolated laptop with a minor malware problem.
Yet, such acts of journalistic malpractice are apparently of little concern to Newsguard
when those committing such acts are big-name corporate media outlets. Notably, Newsguard has a powerful partner
that has allowed it to start finding its way into public library and school computers throughout
the country. As part of its new “Defending Democracy” initiative, Microsoft announced
last August that it would be partnering with Newsguard to actively market the company’s
ranking app and other services to libraries and schools throughout the country. Microsoft’s
press release regarding the partnership states that Newsguard “will empower voters by providing
them with high-quality information about the integrity and transparency of online news
sites.” Newsguard, for its part, seems confident that
its app will soon be added by default to all mobile devices. On its website, the organization
notes that “NewsGuard will be available on mobile devices when the digital platforms
such as social media sites and search engines or mobile operating systems add our ratings
and Nutrition Labels directly.” This shows that Newsguard isn’t expecting its rating
systems to be offered as a downloadable application for mobile devices but something that social
media sites like Facebook, search engines like Google, and mobile device operating systems
that are dominated by Apple and Google will “directly” integrate into nearly every
smartphone and tablet sold in the United States. Another Newsguard service shows that this
organization is also seeking to harm independent media financially by targeting online revenue.
Through a service called “Brandguard,” which it describes as a “brand safety tool
aimed at helping advertisers keep their brands off of unreliable news and information sites
while giving them the assurance they need to support thousands of Green-rated [i.e.,
Newsguard-approved] news and information sites, big and small.” However, Newsguard and it agenda of guarding
the establishment from criticism can be stopped. By supporting independent media and unplugging
from social media sites committed to censorship, like Facebook and Twitter, we can strengthen
the independent media community and keep it afloat despite the unprecedented nature of
these attacks on free speech and watchdog journalism. Beyond that, a key way to keep Newsguard and
those behind it on their toes is to hold them to account by pointing out their clear conflicts
of interest and hypocrisy and by derailing the narrative they are carefully crafting
that Newsguard is “non-partisan,” “trustworthy,” and true guardians against the scourge of
“fake news.”

4 thoughts on “Fact Checkers Wage War On Independent Media

  1. Who guards the fake news guardians? Another attempt to silence alternative media or a genuine concern for the spread of disinformation? Comment below.

  2. I think that the answer to fake news, isn't all this algorithm stuff, but in the daily person. People should be taught in schools how to recognise it. And most of the time it is just common sense. Nonetheless, great video 😀

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