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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

if you missed it; an Orwellian moment

The Washington Post last week published a front-page blockbuster that quickly went viral: Russia-promoted “fake news” had infiltrated the newsfeeds of 213 million Americans during the election, muddying the waters in a disinformation scheme to benefit Donald Trump. Craig Timberg’s story was based on a “report” from an anonymous group calling itself PropOrNot that blacklisted over 200 websites as agents or assets of the Russian state.


Almost everyone outside of the Washington Post who critically examined the list concluded it was at best shoddy and ill-considered, and at worst a deliberate attempt to encourage a chilling effect on Russia-related reporting.
The vast majority of reporters would have needed to see something a lot more concrete than a half-assed theoretical paper from such a dicey source before denouncing 200 news organizations as traitors.
     -- Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
USA Today, Gizmodo, PBSThe Daily BeastSlateAP,  The Verge and NPR all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback. Gizmodo was so giddy its original headline had to be changed from “Research Confirms That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News” to “Research Suggests That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News,” presumably after some polite commenters pointed out that the research “confirmed” nothing of the sort.

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