Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center has long endeavored to make Facebook's fight against fake news a politically charged one, and is not interested at all in having an honest discussion about it.
So when Facebook announced it would be partnering with the Associated Press, Snopes, FactCheck.org, ABC News, and PolitiFact -- all signatories to Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles -- to target fake news, it worked to make that a partisan issue as well. MRC chief Brent Bozell's initial response to the Facebook announcement was relatively restrained, but he made his political point:
I have been in communication with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook since he announced their new ‘fake news’ initiative. I expressed grave concern with this decision and the liberal 'fact-checking' organizations Facebook has chosen. Mr. Zuckerberg assured me that his express aim is to eliminate only patently false news stories from Facebook. He underscored he has instructed these organizations to focus only on truly fake news and nothing of a political nature. I will accept in good faith his commitment to address our concerns on this matter. It is my hope this will be the last we say about this issue.
No mention of course, of how Bozell and his group of right-wingers apparently intimidated Facebook so much earlier this year in trying to capitalize on claims that Facebook's trending-news feed was alleggedly biased that it was afraid to make fixes to its news feed during the election that would have curbed fake news on Facebook lest Bozell's brigade use them as a political pinata again.
In other words, Bozell helped create the current fake-news problem, and he has yet to own up to it.
Nevertheless, this is most certainly not the last Bozell has to say on the issue. On Dec. 18, MSNBC's Joy Reid accused Bozell and other conservatives of "essentially sort of conceding the fact that a lot of the things that are put out on the right aren't real, but he wants them to be prominent in people's feeds."
It's an overstated claim but not inaccurate, given Bozell's fervent desire to politicize the issue. Still, the MRC freaked out anyway. Brad Wilmouth huffed: "Reid did not mention concerns by conservatives that Politifact and other third-party groups that would assist Facebook in its fact-checking have a substantial liberal bias, raising doubts about whether they could be trusted to fact-check evenhandedly between right-wing and left-wing news sources."
Then Bozell predictably chimed in, adding a graguitous side shot at former CNN president Jonathan Klein, who was a panelist on Reid's show:
I didn't essentially sort of concede diddly. I expressed that while 'fake news' does exist, and is a problem, and should be stopped, it is also true that there are those on the left politicizing the issue for partisan political gain, and when liberal outlets are assigned fact-checking oversight, that in itself becomes a new problem. I cannot think of a better example than the blather by Joy Reid on Sunday. Her statement was completely false. Should I call it 'fake news'? As for Jon Klein, who cares what he thinks? You can't fall lower than having the title 'former CNN.'
By the way, despite all of their whining, neither Bozell nor the MRC has definitively proven that any of the websites Facebook is using in its fake-news initiative are "liberal outlets." That's simply an extension of its war on facts driven by the need to cover up for Trump's constant lies.
(As part of that, the MRC's Tim Graham on Dec. 16 touted an attack on PolitiFact by right-winger Mollie Hemingway, which is little more than pedantic hair-splitting over Planned Parenthood and mammograms.)
Bozell then ran to the cozy confines of Fox Business to deny what he said earlier about fake news existing and being an actual problem:
But here is the thing, fake news actually in reality it's not that big a deal. The site denverguardian.com, it actually did the best, ranked 92,000 in web traffic. In other words, people go to 91 other sites — 91,000 other sites before they go to this fake one. The Patriot News Agency, another one that’s fake, it ranks nearly 185,000 and has a total of 113 likes — a whopping 113 on Facebook...So real news sites, to keep it in perspective, a site FoxNews.com is in the top of one hundred. So, the point being really no one goes to these fake sites[.]
Look, fake news exists. It is the story of the Pope endorsing Donald Trump. These are these clickbait organizations, you click on there so they can sell you a product. That is fake news. That needs to be exposed and that needs to be flushed down the toilet, but that’s not a huge issue. If that's all we were talking about, fine, what they’re talking about is going after conservative organizations and conservative thought because it's quote, unquote, fake news.
The MRC cited as evidence an article from the Daily Caller, which got its traffic counts from Alexa -- considered to be a bit dubious -- and which apparently didn't factor traffic counts before the election and traffic referrals from Facebook.
Also, as we've noted, NewsBusters most certainly did push fake news during the election, in the form of the bogus Fox News story about Hillary Clinton's purportedly imminent indictment.
Bozell then invoked the dark specter of "ultra-liberal billionaire" George Soros and complained that it's the left, not him, that's politicizing the fake news issue:
You're already seeing reporters doing this. MSNBC tried it this morning on me. You now have left-wing organizations influencing the advertising community with some of these fact-checking organizations. They have put Breitbart on the list. They have put my organization — NewsBusters — on the list, so this is censorship. This is serious business and these left-wingers need to be exposed. I hate to say it, this goes all the way to President Obama who’s been using this language.
The MRC never issued a full correction or apology for promoting the bogus Fox News story. Unless Bozell can fully come to terms with his own organization's role in pushing fake news for the benefit of Trump, he has no moral high ground he can occupy on this issue.