A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
When you ask Americans about “made-up news,” this is what they say
Survey people about a range of issues, ask which issues are a “very big problem for the country,” and more Americans will cite “made-up news” than terrorism, illegal immigration, racism or sexism.
That’s one of the findings from this new Pew Research Center study. It shows broad agreement that misinformation is greatly impacting Americans’ confidence in government institutions and in each other.
Of course, some point the finger primarily at President Trump while others blame irresponsible news outlets. People are using different definitions of “made-up.” But the study shows a widespread awareness of what’s sometimes called the War on Truth.
Four key findings
1: Pew says “Americans blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news but put the responsibility on the news media to fix it.” Only 9% say the onus is mostly on the tech companies.
2: When people bemoan made-up news, they’re not just talking about politics: 61% of respondents said there’s a lot of bogus content out there about entertainment and celebrities.
3: “52% of Americans have shared made-up news knowingly and/or unknowingly.” Almost everyone says they only found out the info was bogus after sharing.
4: Here is a hopeful sign! 78% “say they have checked the facts in news stories themselves.” More here…
Speaking of made-up stories…
CNN’s KFILE identified “five instances where Donald Trump planted stories or spread fake claims about the British royal family joining his properties in order to get publicity…”
What should YouTube forbid?
That’s the big question at the heart of these next two stories.
FIRST: Vox’s Carlos Maza publicly condemned YouTube for enabling harassment by Steven Crowder, a prominent right-wing personality who has attacked Maza with homophobic and racist slurs. YouTube reacted with a number of confusing and contradictory tweets. As Jon Sarlin explains here, the company originally said it would not take action because the videos did not violate its harassment policies. Criticism erupted. Then YouTube said it was demonetizing Crowder’s videos for “continued egregious actions that have harmed the broader community.” Sarlin spoke with Maza for this video and story…
SECOND: While the Maza-Crowder controversy was raging, YouTube announced that it will ban accounts promoting Nazism or denying atrocities like Sandy Hook. YouTube told Donie O’Sullivan that hundreds of thousands of videos and thousands of video channels will be removed as a result of its new ban.
At issue in both cases: Where’s the line? Who decides? Do the rest of us get to have any say? How do people appeal? And how in the world can companies like YouTube enforce the line in countless countries and languages and time zones in real time?!
The latest from Donie
Donie O’Sullivan emails: I am seeing quite a few reports on YouTube about educational accounts that hosted Nazi speeches, for instance, having videos removed as a result of YouTube’s new ban. It’s not confirmed, and YouTube is not commenting, but it is demonstrative of the wider challenge these platforms face – where to draw the line.
With that being said, there are some lines that are a bit clearer. While some will applaud YouTube’s actions, the fact is, they left this garbage sit on their platform for years – and they profited from it…
Sandy Hook attorney: “Too late to undo the harm”
Oliver Darcy emails: The attorney representing 10 of the families who lost relatives in the Sandy Hook massacre told me that he welcomed YouTube’s Wednesday action, but said it was “too late to undo the harm” that has been caused to his clients from conspiracy theories circulating on the platform over the past several years. “Sandy Hook happened now nearly seven years ago, and so during that entire time the clients were subject to hostile postings on YouTube that disseminated this false narrative and caused undue harassment, threats, and fallacies as they were trying to heal,” said the attorney, Josh Koskoff. “At the same time, better late than never.”
Lenny Pozner, the father of a Sandy Hook victim, also told me that “it is impossible to calculate the damage that these videos have done.” That said, Pozner added, “We thank YouTube for taking the lead in enacting policy changes that we have been recommending for the past half-decade.”
>> Senior tech editor Matt Quinn emails with a question to add to this list: Why now? As Koskoff and Pozner say, they’ve been recommending this for years. It’s hard not to think the increased regulatory scrutiny — or at least threat of regulation — is leading the platforms to changes they can point to when Congress comes calling…
What will other platforms do?
More from Darcy: Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if other social media company adopts guidelines similar to the ones YouTube announced on Wednesday regarding content that denies well-documented violent events like Sandy Hook. “All social media platforms who have not taken this step, should look in the mirror and decide whether they want to continue to facilitate harassment and hate in this day and age where that has serious consequences,” Koskoff told me. And Pozner echoed that, saying that he hoped “Twitter and other hosting platforms will follow suit in implementing and enforcing more socially responsible policies.”
– All the major networks will carry live coverage of the D-Day commemoration on Thursday morning. CNN’s “New Day” will begin at 5 a.m. The event will take place roughly between 5 and 6:30 a.m. Eastern time…
– NBC’s Cynthia McFadden is speaking at a National Press Club panel about “The Challenge of Reporting From the Central African Republic…”
– “Dark Phoenix” opens in theaters…
FT’s Future of News Summit is on Thursday
The agenda is jam-packed. A few of the many highlights: A keynote interview with WaPo’s Marty Baron… a late morning panel with the heads of the three broadcast news divisions Noah Oppenheim, Susan Zirinsky and James Goldston… and an end-of-the-afternoon keynote with Don Lemon…
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
– Tucker Carlson gave “rousing support” to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s economic policy ideas on Wednesday night… Kate Sullivan and MJ Lee have details here… (CNN)
– Margaret Sullivan is endorsing the bipartisan bill that would provide a “four-year antitrust exemption for news publishers as they negotiate with Google and Facebook over how news content is used and how advertising dollars are distributed…” (WaPo)
– “CNN is suing the FBI for memos documenting what about 500 witnesses told special counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI during the Mueller investigation…” (CNN)
Appalling raids in Australia
Let me second what David Crowe, the chief political correspondent at the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote in Thursday’s paper: “Press raids are proof Australians deserve more scrutiny of their government, not less.”
That’s absolutely right. This week’s raids – the first at the home of News Corp’s Annika Smethurst, the second at the headquarters of national broadcaster ABC – are deeply troubling to journalists in Australia and all around the world. Both raids are related to leaks that badly embarrassed the government – but made sure citizens knew what the government was doing. CNN’s Rishi Iyengar and Angus Watson have a full debrief here.
>> Another way to get caught up: Check out John Lyons’ Twitter feed. Lyons, the executive editor of ABC News, live-tweeted the police raid and called it “a bad, sad and dangerous day for a country where we have for so long valued — and taken for granted — a free press.”
>> In an exchange posted to his official website, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country “believes strongly in the freedom of the press,” but that there were “no plans to make any changes to existing laws.”
We’re seeing an impressive amount of solidarity across Aussie media, with all sorts of newspapers and networks recognizing how harmful the government’s action is. The country’s biggest paper by circulation, the Herald Sun, ran this editorial on Thursday: “Witch-hunts that threaten whistleblowers while perpetuating cover-ups and corruption are more at home in China and North Korea.”
In the ABC case, Lyons reported that the police agreed to a two-week “hiatus,” allowing for the network to appeal the seizures in court before its work product is examined by prosecutors…
>> What should be next? Peter Greste, a journalist who spent more than a year in prison in Egypt, argued that the “raid on ABC shows we need a law to protect journalists and their sources…”
From San Fran to Sydney…
These seizures “appear calculated to intimidate would-be whistleblowers from coming forward in the public interest, and prevent journalists from doing their jobs.”
Those are the words of the National Press Club of Australia, but they apply equally well to the case of Bryan Carmody, whose home was raided by authorities in San Francisco last month. It is vital to see the connections between these cases. As the BBC said in a statement about the ABC, this is a time “when the media is becoming less free around the world…”
New study shows that global press freedom is in peril
According to Freedom House’s annual “Freedom in the World” report, “media freedom has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade, with new forms of repression taking hold in open societies and authoritarian states alike.” Notably, “some of the most influential democracies in the world” have endured attacks on press freedoms. “The problem has arisen in tandem with right-wing populism, which has undermined basic freedoms in many democratic countries.”
>> The upside: “Experience has shown, however, that press freedom can rebound from even lengthy stints of repression when given the opportunity. The basic desire for democratic liberties, including access to honest and fact-based journalism, can never be extinguished.” Keep reading this nuanced report…
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
– Missed this yesterday, from WaPo’s Jason Rezaian: “The State Department has been funding trolls. I’m one of their targets.” (WaPo)
– The NYT’s Alexandra Alter has the first “substantive interview since the mid-1970s” with Thomas Harris, a/k/a Hannibal Lector’s creator, who’s out with a new novel, “Cari Mora…” (NYT)
– From “falsehoods” to “lies:” Nowadays, Paul Farhi writes, “many in the news media are no longer bothering to grant Trump the benefit of the doubt. In routine news and feature stories, Trump’s dishonesty carries no fig leaf. It is described baldly…” (WaPo)
Daniel Dale will be on “the truth beat” for CNN
The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale has distinguished himself as one of the foremost fact-checkers of the Trump era – while also doing his day job as a Washington correspondent for his readers in Canada. Now he’s joining CNN in the DC bureau as a fact-checking reporter. He tweeted the good news: “I’ll be on the truth beat full-time starting June 17, dissecting dishonesty from Trump, Democratic candidates and others.”
And here’s why Dale is busier than ever…
Trump and Morgan
There were plenty of newsmaking exchanges in Trump’s interview with Piers Morgan. There were also plenty of confusing and just plain illogical exchanges, as when he said “I believe that there’s a change in weather and I think it changes both ways.” And when he said, about the USS John S. McCain controversy, “I hear it’s fake news.”
>> Colbert went after both Morgan and Trump on Thursday’s “Late Show.” Here’s the clip…
Ingraham interviewing Trump on Thursday
Fox’s Laura Ingraham will tape an interview with POTUS in Normandy on Thursday. Fox says “he will discuss the 75th anniversary of D-Day, his official state visit to the U.K. and other news of the day…”