Editor’s Note: We live in interesting times. In recent months, and especially weeks since COVID-19 has worked to dramatically change our lives and daily habits, the struggle to get accurate information in the face of corporate and government censorship and secrecy has intensified. While this isn’t new, it does seem to be ramping up as we also navigate the turbulent waters of a contentious election year. Responses from social media tech titans has been to de-platform and censor more sources under the guise of limiting foreign meddling and disinformation campaigns, allegedly “fighting fake news.” There has been a particular uptick this past week (mid-March 2020) with Facebook dubiously removing posts containing legitimate factual articles and sources, just as they partner with USA Today to be “fact-checkers.” We at Project Censored have sounded the alarm bell on these practices for the past several years.
In our most recent book, Censored 2020: Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 8, scholars Emil Marmol and Lee Mager showed how big tech firms and social media companies are taking advantage of widespread calls to “fight fake news” by legitimizing censorship of online content, de-platforming critical voices on the Right and Left. This censorship effectively highjacks efforts to promote media literacy by making control of the online flow of news and information a matter of “artificial intelligence” (in the form of proprietary algorithms). When it comes to protecting the integrity of the news we receive, though, we need less “A” and more “I.” Marmol and Mager delve into the controversies and media distractions of Russiagate as well as the deep state and military–industrial complex involvement in social media companies’ fact-checking and content restriction policies, noting significant conflicts of interest. They conclude that we must speak out against the weaponization of “fake news” as a concept, while supporting a free press focused on the public good and promoting support for whistleblowers as vital sources of truth.
We share that chapter with you all here as this analysis is ever more important as we enter even more uncertain times and make sure to listen to the Project Censored Show from last year featuring Emil Marmol.