Friday December 9, 2016
The Washington Post has been under fire for its publication of an article entitling “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.” The article by Craig Timberg relied on a controversial website called PropOrNot, which published what is little more than a black list of website that the authors deemed purveyors of fake news including some of the largest sites on the Internet like Drudge Report. However, the previously unknown group was itself criticized for listing “allies” that proved false. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton ramped up the call for action against “fake news” which she described as an epidemic. Now the Washington Post has published a rather cryptic correction to the fake news story. The controversy is the subject of my latest column in USA Today.
The organization listed a variety of news sites as illegitimate. It included some of the most popular political sites from the left and right Truthout, Zero Hedge, Antiwar.com, and the Ron Paul Institute. It even includes one of the most read sites on the Internet, the Drudge Report. Notably, it also included WikiLeaks, which has been credited with exposing political corruption and unlawful surveillance programs.
The Washington Post is the largest newspaper to buy the clearly biased list as the work of objective “experts” — ignoring that the site relies on anonymity of those contributors. When the Post ran the story, some were eager to push the story as a reason why they lost the election. The former White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted, “Why isn’t this the biggest story in the world right now?” The reason is that it was facially absurd.