THERE IS CERTAINLY CONSIDERABLE talk, particularly of late, about the threats presented by social media to democracy and political discourse. Yet one of the main ways that democracy is degraded by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is, for apparent reasons, usually ignored in such discussions: the way they are utilized by American journalists to promote factually false claims that rapidly spread and become viral, entrenched into narratives, and therefore, can never be adequately corrected.
The design of Twitter, where many political journalists spend their time, is in large part accountable for this damage. Its space constraints mean that tweeted headlines or tiny summaries of reporting are frequently presumed to be true with no critical analysis of their accuracy and are easily spread. Claims from journalists that folks want to believe are shared like wildfire, while less popular subsequent corrections or nuanced debunking are easily disregarded. Whatever one’s views are on the precise impact of Twitter Russian bots, surely the inclination of journalistic falsehoods to spread far and wide is at least as considerable.
Just in the last week alone, there have been four major factually false claims that have gone viral because journalists on Twitter supported and spread them: three about the controversy relating to Donna Brazile and the Democratic National Committee, and one about documents and emails published by WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. It’s well worth reviewing them, both to document what the actual truth is, as well as to comprehend how often and easily this online journalistic misleading happens.
proof that the content of any of the WikiLeaks emails was modified is nonexistent, while there is overwhelming reason to think none has been (beginning with the truth that, as easy it would be to do so, no evidence has been provided after all this time). However, as a result of journalists’ behavior on Twitter this week, the false claim that emails and documents in the WikiLeaks archive were proven to be modified is now viral and will remain fixed in people’s belief system eternally:
There is no way to confirm the negative, that no emails or documents published by WikiLeaks were modified. But one should demand genuine proof prior to affirming this claim. And in spite of the ease of providing that evidence, and the long period of time that has elapsed, none has been presented. But, not surprisingly, that did not stop the claim that it had been proven from going viral this week on Twitter – all according to the tenuous claim that Guccifer added a “confidential” watermark to one of the documents he circulated.
It can definitely be threatening for Russian bots to disseminate divisive messaging on Twitter. But it’s at least equally menacing if journalists with the loudest claim to authoritative credibility are utilizing that platform consistently to entrench falsehoods in the public’s mind.
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The Establishment continue to push forward in their attempt to shut down the alternative press that is rapidly growing and pushing out the faltering mainstream media. As the EU demands social media sites censor fake news and Reddit, Facebook and other sites begin blocking Fusion Laced Illusions and other alternative media it is now alarmingly evident that their truly is a war on free speech.
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