Monday, May 1, 2017

Fake News and the Struggle to Establish a Global System of Censorship

If not every day certainly several times a week The New York Times publishes a story having to do with the deep-state effort to police the World Wide Web. Today's offering is "In Europe’s Election Season, Tech Vies to Fight Fake News" by Mark Scott.

Most of these stories focus on Europe as the current battlefield where mainstream candidates (neoliberal candidates) are purportedly under attack by a horde of Fake News sites, some of which, like the internationally recognized Sputnik, are sponsored by the Russian state.

The stories usually are built around a promise that the aggrieved political status quo is just one super-science algorithm away from creating a sound, fact-based Internet.

What is being described is an effort to establish a global system of information censorship. The concern about Fake News is really a concern that support for the established political organs of the mainstream left and right is collapsing precipitously. "Fake News" is code for the populist rejection of the governing political center.

Scott's story today provides a perfect example:
The goal, experts say, is to expand these digital tools across Europe, so the region can counter the fake news that caused so much confusion and anger during the United States presidential election in November, when outright false reports routinely spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter.
“Algorithms will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting misinformation,” said Claire Wardle, head of strategy and research at First Draft News, a nonprofit organization that has teamed up with tech companies and newsrooms to debunk fake reports about elections in the United States and Europe. “It’s impossible to do all of this by hand.”
Researchers have tried to learn from the United States’ run-in with fake news, but the problem in Europe has mutated, experts say, making it impossible to merely replicate American responses to the issue.
European countries have different languages, and their media markets are smaller than those in the United States. That means groups that set up fake news sites in the United States, seeking to profit from online advertising when false claims were shared on social media, are less prevalent in Europe.
So far, outright fake news stories have been relatively rare. Instead, false reports have more often come from Europeans on social media taking real news out of context, as well as from fake claims spread by state-backed groups like Sputnik, the Russian news organization.
But with fake news already swirling around Europe’s forthcoming elections, analysts also worry that technology on its own may not be enough to combat the threat.
“There’s an increased amount of misinformation out there,” said Janis Sarts, director of the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, a think tank in Riga, Latvia, that will hold a hackathon with local coders in May to find potential tech solutions to this trend. “State-based actors have been trying to amplify specific views to bring them into the mainstream.”
Calls for combating fake news have focused on some of the biggest online players, including American giants like Facebook and Google.
After criticism of its role in spreading false reports during the United States elections, Facebook introduced a fact-checking tool ahead of the Dutch elections in March and the first round of the French presidential election on April 23. It also removed 30,000 accounts in France that had shared fake news, a small fraction of the approximately 33 million Facebook users in the country.
Will the Fake News purveyed by The New York Times be flagged and censored? Will the prestige press continue to act as a conveyor belt for bald government assertions, such as, "Assad gassed his own people at Khan Sheikhoun"?

Will the click-bait design of most mainstream homepages change? (Look at BBC World News and The Guardian U.S.) Fake News is the mainstream. To change the one you would have to change the other.


  1. My weekend adventure in censorship.

  2. Well put:

    "Imagine if you were a venture capitalist sitting in a New York office, and you had the power to limit commentary by progressives or people framing their arguments by class issues. And you could limit these comments to 75% of all websites in the world.

    "You don't have to imagine it."

    I'm sure you noticed that you're appearing as "Bob in Pacifica" now on Google Blogspot as well.

    The longevity of neoliberalism -- a good 20 years past the "sell by" date -- I'm sure is connected to the sophistication of the deep state's mastery of information technology.