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Parry writes: "The New York Times wants a system of censorship for the Internet to block what it calls 'fake news,' but the Times ignores its own record of publishing 'fake news.'"

Should Facebook censor fake news? (photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP)
Should Facebook censor fake news? (photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

NYT Advocates Internet Censorship

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

21 November 16


The New York Times wants a system of censorship for the Internet to block what it calls “fake news,” but the Times ignores its own record of publishing “fake news,” reports Robert Parry.

n its lead editorial on Sunday, The New York Times decried what it deemed “The Digital Virus Called Fake News” and called for Internet censorship to counter this alleged problem, taking particular aim at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for letting “liars and con artists hijack his platform.”

As this mainstream campaign against “fake news” quickly has gained momentum in the past week, two false items get cited repeatedly, a claim that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump and an assertion that Trump was prevailing in the popular vote over Hillary Clinton. I could add another election-related falsehood, a hoax spread by Trump supporters that liberal documentarian Michael Moore was endorsing Trump when he actually was backing Clinton.

But I also know that Clinton supporters were privately pushing some salacious and unsubstantiated charges about Trump’s sex life, and Clinton personally charged that Trump was under the control of Russian President Vladimir Putin although there was no evidence presented to support that McCarthyistic accusation.

The simple reality is that lots of dubious accusations get flung around during the heat of a campaign – nothing new there – and it is always a challenge for professional journalists to swat them down the best we can. What’s different now is that the Times envisions some structure (or algorithm) for eliminating what it calls “fake news.”

But, with a stunning lack of self-awareness, the Times fails to acknowledge the many times that it has published “fake news,” such as reporting in 2002 that Iraq’s purchase of aluminum tubes meant that it was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program; its bogus analysis tracing the firing location of a Syrian sarin-laden rocket in 2013 back to a Syrian military base that turned out to be four times outside the rocket’s range; or its publication of photos supposedly showing Russian soldiers inside Russia and then inside Ukraine in 2014 when it turned out that the “inside-Russia” photo was also taken inside Ukraine, destroying the premise of the story.

These are just three examples among many of the Times publishing “fake news” – and all three appeared on Page One before being grudgingly or partially retracted, usually far inside the newspaper under opaque headlines so most readers wouldn’t notice. Much of the Times’ “fake news” continued to reverberate in support of U.S. government propaganda even after the partial retractions.

Who Is the Judge?

So, should Zuckerberg prevent Facebook users from circulating New York Times stories? Obviously, the Times would not favor that solution to the problem of “fake news.” Instead, the Times expects to be one of the arbiters deciding which Internet outlets get banned and which ones get gold seals of approval.

The Times lead editorial, following a front-page article on the same topic on Friday, leaves little doubt what the newspaper would like to see. It wants major Internet platforms and search engines, such as Facebook and Google, to close off access to sites accused of disseminating “fake news.”

The editorial said, “a big part of the responsibility for this scourge rests with internet companies like Facebook and Google, which have made it possible for fake news to be shared nearly instantly with millions of users and have been slow to block it from their sites. …

“Facebook says it is working on weeding out such fabrications. It said last Monday that it would no longer place Facebook-powered ads on fake news websites, a move that could cost Facebook and those fake news sites a lucrative source of revenue. Earlier on the same day, Google said it would stop letting those sites use its ad placement network. These steps would help, but Facebook, in particular, owes its users, and democracy itself, far more.

“Facebook has demonstrated that it can effectively block content like click-bait articles and spam from its platform by tweaking its algorithms, which determine what links, photos and ads users see in their news feeds. … Facebook managers are constantly changing and refining the algorithms, which means the system is malleable and subject to human judgment.”

The Times editorial continued: “This summer, Facebook decided to show more posts from friends and family members in users’ news feeds and reduce stories from news organizations, because that’s what it said users wanted. If it can do that, surely its programmers can train the software to spot bogus stories and outwit the people producing this garbage. …

“Mr. Zuckerberg himself has spoken at length about how social media can help improve society. … None of that will happen if he continues to let liars and con artists hijack his platform.”

Gray Areas

But the problem is that while some falsehoods may be obvious and clear-cut, much information exists in a gray area in which two or more sides may disagree on what the facts are. And the U.S. government doesn’t always tell the truth although you would be hard-pressed to find recent examples of the Times recognizing that reality. Especially over the past several decades, the Times has usually embraced the Official Version of a disputed event and has deemed serious skepticism out of bounds.

That was the way the Times treated denials from the Iraqi government and some outside experts who disputed the “aluminum tube” story in 2002 – and how the Times has brushed off disagreements regarding the U.S. government’s portrayal of events in Syria, Ukraine and Russia. Increasingly, the Times has come across as a propaganda conduit for Official Washington rather than a professional journalistic entity.

But the Times and other mainstream news outlets – along with some favored Internet sites – now sit on a Google-financed entity called the First Draft Coalition, which presents itself as a kind of Ministry of Truth that will decide which stories are true and which are “fake.”

If the Times’ editorial recommendations are followed, the disfavored stories and the sites publishing them would no longer be accessible through popular search engines and platforms, essentially blocking the public’s access to them. [See’s “What to Do About ‘Fake News.’”]

The Times asserts that such censorship would be good for democracy – and it surely is true that hoaxes and baseless conspiracy theories are no help to democracy – but regulation of information in the manner that the Times suggests has more than a whiff of Orwellian totalitarianism to it.

And the proposal is especially troubling coming from the Times, with its checkered recent record of disseminating dangerous disinformation.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+51 # librarian1984 2016-11-21 14:25
Well the best defense is a great offense, and I find the NYT quite offensive.

I would love to see a massive NYTexit. I am so sick of these propagandists wrapped in the flag, betraying their mission, betraying this country.

Thanks, Mr. Perry. Respect.
+20 # grandlakeguy 2016-11-21 20:33
Judith Miller anyone?
+4 # jdd 2016-11-22 07:01
+9 # dadhantat 2016-11-21 21:07
Right on librian1984. If the NYT wants to be an arbitrator of said censorship we are indeed in serious trouble.

Of course there is the sticky issue of free speech. If a country starts down the slippery slope of censorship there is no telling where it will stop.

In my opinion the best defense againist fake news is:

1. Due Deligience
2. Temet Noce - Know Thy Self
3. Know what you believe, Know why you believe what you believe, and Say what you believe.
4. Know what you will compromise on and what you will not compromise.


+1 # Patriot 2016-11-22 00:37
dadhantat, yes, I do.
+8 # jdd 2016-11-22 07:06
The unrelenting Russophobia and personal attacks on President Putin make it the main propaganda outlet for WWlll. ( New masthead slogan: "All the News that Fits)."
-3 # Activista 2016-11-23 23:23
Quoting jdd:
The unrelenting Russophobia and personal attacks on President Putin make it the main propaganda outlet for WWlll. ( New masthead slogan: "All the News that Fits)."

The unrelenting personal attacks on President Obama on FOX and sometimes here is much worse than very polite New York Times. Seems that NYT is favored by educated USA Middle Class. The articles are in depth - likely too long and complex for the Facebook Volks.
And pointing to extreme lies/blocking extreme lies is NOT a censorship - lies/propaganda is NOT free speech.
+3 # A_Har 2016-11-22 19:49
Quoting librarian1984:
Well the best defense is a great offense, and I find the NYT quite offensive.

I would love to see a massive NYTexit. I am so sick of these propagandists wrapped in the flag, betraying their mission, betraying this country.

Thanks, Mr. Perry. Respect.
I heard they are losing readership:

NY Times losing thousands of subscribers because of poor, inaccurate coverage of me – Trump

It couldn't happen to a better propaganda RAG. I think they richly deserve it.

I am so sick of the bullshit the media spewed--it's disgusting.
+22 # anthraxripple 2016-11-21 17:49
We could fit all the truly honest and unbiased news we've heard in the last year within THIS PARENTHESIS

( )

THERE. I made it a really BIG parenthesis to fit all that truthiness.
+13 # No Go 2016-11-21 18:27
While absolute, undeniable, fully factually substantiated, TRUTH may exist, to some extent, many "news" sources fall far short of demonstrably absolute truth.
That having been said, the New York Times, and other real responsible investigative journalistic reporting efforts, undertake to provide FACTS, sources, and corrections (as new information is available), and they identify opinion pieces as OPINION.
The fake news problem, as currently being widely discussed, is an abominable product of social media, and the internet, generally; wherein, 100% false stories get promulgated as if they were somehow real stories, with little or no basis for the reader, or viewer, to know the origin or veracity of the story.
In Parry's complaint, this line rings very true, " it surely is true that hoaxes and baseless conspiracy theories are no help to democracy".
One can hope that Facebook, Google, NY Times, and other relevant participants, including Robert Parry, can form a consortium of concern, on behalf of civilized society and civil discourse, to come up with an appropriate system to rid us of the stream of unadulterated FAKE NEWS.
TRUMP is the direct product of the fake news phenomenon.
+31 # Ted 2016-11-21 19:33
I have to disagree.

The NYT and all the othe corporate news outlets (owned by just 6 people) are just as guilty of spreading false information as the more blatant "fakenews" sources, they just have a much more deceptive elegance in their work and outright lie by omission more than you could imagine.

Did the NYT report that the Ohio voting computers had their recount and security features PURPOSELY TURNED OFF for the election? No.

This is about censoring the internet to assure that the only information the people get is information that the powers-that-be WANT us to get, true or not.
+19 # grandlakeguy 2016-11-21 20:37
They also refuse to cover the topic of 911 truth and building 7 in particular!

Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth bought a huge billboard across the street from the NY Times to get them to engage in some investigative journalism.
The Times ignored them.
Of course!
+5 # Greg Scott 2016-11-22 11:29
It's call d again the money IS the problem. The more money you have the louder the voice.

But the problem is not new...look up William Randolph Hearst.

The supreme court says 'money is speech'...and we keep blowing the chance to fix the court.

Kinda depressing, isn't it....

Trump will keep tweeting dumb shit at 3 am and the real powers...the bought and sold boys...along with a few bought and sold girls...will make it their business to serve their masters interests.

I'm Joining Our ain.
+2 # egbegb 2016-11-21 18:43
I can't remember the last time I've read a mostly unbiased news article on RSN. Indeed, by that liberal professor's metrics and the NYT, RSN would be a "faux news" site. Congratulations for publishing and excellent unbiased article. I predict if unbiased articles continue to appear in RSN, donations will increase.
+5 # economagic 2016-11-21 19:21
Since you claim to find no truth here . . . WTF ARE YOU DOING HERE?
-1 # Lloyd Wagner 2016-11-21 19:27
Quoting economagic:
Since you claim to find no truth here . . . WTF ARE YOU DOING HERE?

I don't see much truth here, either. I read to educate myself of what is being said by "Progressives" who supported Hillary, and who still believe the official story on 9/11. I hope that's OK with you.
And I will say, in the past, I have contributed to progressive websites who solicited contributions -- I sent paper checks for what I could afford off to California back in the early 2000's.
That was was before I started to do some research on my own, and put 2 and 2 together. I discovered that what passes for "Progressive" here is helping to perpetuate a MAJOR lie: the official story of 9/11.
And I don't "know" that from any one website, I know that from researching many websites and using my own common sense. What was claimed to have happened on 9/11 is clearly physically impossible. Yet neither NYT nor RSN will even talk about it.
Fake News Sites. No, I won't contribute.
+4 # PCPrincess 2016-11-22 12:19
Wait, wait wait. Hold up! There are many of us here who question that 'story' and the vast majority of long-time RSN readers were NOT supporters of Hillary.
+7 # ptalady 2016-11-21 19:42
Geez, touchy much?? Is that really the point of this site and discussion board: to eject those who don't fall in line with each if your beliefs? I gotta say, that is an attitude I have encountered here before, and it is mystifying. I always thought the progressive cause was supposed to particularly treasure free speech; if free and open discussion is suppressed, how does the progressive view -- always a minority view-- hope to get aired?
+11 # ptalady 2016-11-21 19:37
While I myself enjoy and seek out many/most of the biases published at RSN, when I first heard about the proposed fake news ban, I was struck with fear of exactly that: RSN would be labeled as a "fake news source" and get swallowed. How I pray that this idea is quickly abandoned!
+23 # Ted 2016-11-21 18:57
What rubbish.

What's next? Prison time (in a for-profit private prison, of course) for anyone who shares anything they find on the web that ISN'T FROM THE 6 CORPORATE MEDIA OUTLETS?
+10 # jwb110 2016-11-21 19:51
The NYT is a rag! It hasn't been much of a newspaper since the late 70s. "All the news that's fit to print" is on their Masthead. Most of what they print isn't fit to print.
0 # susiegato 2016-11-21 20:10
I think we should consider a news blackout for some period before elections (say, 2 weeks) that would involve a shutdown of social media. Hillary won the popular vote. Without fake news, Comey, the Russians and the illegal use of Crosscheck, Hillary would certainly have also won the Electoral College.
-4 # ericlipps 2016-11-22 05:45
An readers here would have been apoplectic. (Look it up.)
0 # AshamedAmerican 2016-11-23 20:33
But if we had an independent, unconglomerated , non-corporate MSM all along, Clinton wouldn't have got more votes in the primaries than any of the Palins could have.
+2 # Logic 2016-11-21 20:11
Noam Chomsky used to seem a pretty accurate critic. For the last decade though, it seems that he never really gets to the root of the matter.

Possibly the problem is that Chomsky limits his input to “reputable” sources such as the NYT.

It is garbage-in, garbage-out, if you get your info from the Times.
+14 # ReconFire 2016-11-21 20:20
A few thoughts:
In my mind all news sources need to be taken with a grain of salt, especially MSM.

Stay off of Facebook

Lloyd Wagner, sorry you feel that way about RSN and 9/11. I don't get the same feeling hear on that subject. Because of my past professions, I knew the story was a lie as soon as the first tower fell. After months of research I don't know everything, but have a pretty good understanding of what happened on that day.
+10 # margpark 2016-11-21 20:57
In my opinon the entire media has gone over to 'Entertainment' Honest news is lost when news programs are supposed to be profit making. Profit making (or Ultra Capitalism) is prevalent everywhere in this country. Local news will lead with bloody news from across the country rather than getting down to it with local news. I gave up TV many years ago, when media was devoted to Bill Clinton's escapades. I wonder when the dust settles, if Hillary will divorce him. Or perhaps she just loves him and forgives his escapades.
+4 # 2016-11-21 21:26
Excellent article. Congratulations.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+15 # librarian1984 2016-11-21 21:42
I think the more important problem, as Ted says, is the sin of omission. News outlets just don't cover things -- like Bernie Sanders' campaign, election fraud, DAPL protests -- they just don't write about it at all.

And the AP service, which one would think tries for a higher level of integrity, has been caught in several whoppers lately, most egregiously declaring Clinton the nominee the night before the last five states' primaries.

None of us is at ease not having trustwothy news sources, but the skepticism is essential. The vast majority of news outlets cannot be assumed to be believable.
+2 # RNLDaWy 2016-11-21 23:04
The object of most 'media' sources today is to get you to take sides. There is very little if any real objective reporting on news and facts. I would say in fact they are counting on you to not check sources look at the contrary view and or if any evidence ... after all that is too much work .. RSN same won't publish one iota of contrary to their thrust .. Left Far Left .. I can support my views on this but I don't want to debate the hacks on this site .. too much work .. so you see it all works for the media and all it's entrails today .
+5 # dipierro4 2016-11-22 00:06
My default position is Do Not Touch Freedom of Speech. But that was formed before technology made "fake news" possible.

I'm terrified that an election might be decided by people that can literally plant a complete lie in the minds of a population, even in the middle of Election Day.

We accept that you can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Now, with our present technology, we face difficult questions: Just where is the boundary between "Fire!" and acceptable free speech? And what should be the consequences if someone shouts "Fire" when it affects not a few people in a theater, but a whole nation?

Yes, the NY Times has failed us at times. And at worst, if the "news" that comes through certain sources has been vetted, we could return to the 1950's, when our range of news and free expression was narrow indeed. OTOH, is certain self-discipline , backed by organizations like NYT, FB, and Google, necessarily worse than the unchecked law of the jungle? None of know for sure how the future might play out, either way.

Whom should we trust the most, or the least? The press, or the law of the marketplace-jun gle unchecked? I know we don't trust government; as to the other two, the answer is less clear to me.

To those who might instantly give me thumbs-down: Would you do the same if Sanders had been the nominee and had lost by 500 votes, after the decisive state had been inundated with "Sanders caught with child porn" at 2:00 p.m. on Election Day?
0 # Activista 2016-11-23 23:28
Thank you - I learned from you -
+1 # Jaax88 2016-11-22 00:22
I had the delightful experience this evening of reading a fake news site's owners unabashedly talk about what they do and why. False info to make money. Apparently they were on trumps and alt-rights's side. Here is the link in case anyone is interested in learning a thing or two about what they do and about their twisted efforts.

I do not see why this kind of operation (I know about free speech, but lies do not seem to me to be free speech; yelling "fire" in a theater can be a criminal act and punished) should not be shut down or at the least called out on some sort of Internet public bulletin board for what it is. "Read at your peril."
+2 # PCPrincess 2016-11-22 12:23
Well, I do think we need to remind people from time to time that the idea of 'Free Speech' as a protected right, ONLY applies to us as citizens in our respect to the U.S. Government. That is all it is.

It does not apply in buyer/seller relationships, nor in user/provider relationships and does not apply in privately owned businesses, websites, areas, etc. I'm not saying this to you, but using this reply to your comment as a way to remind everyone of this.
+1 # Jaax88 2016-11-23 00:13
You are right. That makes some effort to stop fake news possibly more attainable, except the air ways are government owned and open to the public.
+3 # Patriot 2016-11-22 00:54
Every business's best advertising comes from its customers, and so does what business fears most: customer put-downs.

We can manage to debunk much of the misinformation if we'll just get busy and do so--by telling each other what seems fishy to us, by calmly, rationally challenging it as we read it, by researching and writing OUR versions--but we cannot censor stupidity out of people's heads.

Those who will believe the wild and improbable, or become exercised over a so-called "outrage" that is of no real significance, can't be persuaded by facts or reasoning--or protected from their own imaginations or misconceptions by censorship.

Censorship will no more promote truth than torture will produce useful information or Homeland Security protect us from madmen who want to kill lots of people who've herded themselves into tight quarters.

No more censorship, spying, or torture! None of them are consistent with a free society.

Remember, the goal of reasoning with those who disagree is to lead them to a point at which they will say, "I hadn't thought of that. That's a good point." That won't happen overnight, or by haranguing, nor can censorship make it happen.
0 # janie1893 2016-11-22 02:11
To Lloyd Wagner--What is the point of Mr. Chomsky wasting his time protesting about issues that he has written about at least once before. The whole world knows 9/11 could have been prevented and there was a conspiracy around it, but at the present time, we cannot protest the
official version for several reasons.
Can you do anything in a productive manner to clean up that whole fairy story? I cannot
+2 # Lolanne 2016-11-22 11:20
I've recently run across a couple of people that seem to be trying to help readers determine what sites are "fake." Also giving tips to help readers determine for themselves whether what they are reading is factual or just sensationalizin g. The list that was on the first one is not there today (says it is down being worked on) but I think the tips this writer gives readers are good ones. Links:

Ultimately, of course, it is up to each one of us to educate ourselves and become discerning readers.
+2 # Activista 2016-11-22 23:21
The censorship is/will be the last nail of coffin for democracy.
I like NYT - especially the scientific sections. But there is of course propaganda/lies there.
The fake news on Facebook were such a blatant lies that one had to laugh. But then when reading comments, one had to cry - SOME people believed it.
So it is NOT only source of these news, but also quality/educati on of the readers that is so scary.
0 # Activista 2016-11-25 19:31
NEW YORK (AP) — A new report suggests a "sophisticated" Russian propaganda campaign helped flood social media with fake news stories leading up to the presidential election..."

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