“The liberal side of the Internet has a serious problem…”
That was the opening salvo in an online post earlier this week by the liberal website Patheos.
The piece surely infuriated some fellow left-wingers by proposing that liberals should boycott 16 lefty “news” websites. Or at least those on the left should stop posting and linking to content on these sites (listed below).
Patheos pointed out that these fringe sites trick people into believing that they are actual online journalism publications. They suck in loyal lefties with “clickbait” headlines and highly distorted articles to feed into the biases of their intended audience. Too often, it works. And these sites cash in.
Ed Brayton, the author of the Patheos column, expressed his frustration:
I see links to these sites on my Facebook feed dozens of times a day and it makes me want to smack my head into a wall, often shared by otherwise intelligent people who consider themselves to be skeptics. And yet they will share a link to an article with headlines like “Trump DESTROYED by MSNBC host.” Here’s a good rule of thumb: If a word in a headline is in all caps, it’s probably bullshit. And most of the time, if you read the article — which studies show most people don’t bother to do before sharing it — you find that it doesn’t fit the headline at all. The headlines are often wildly exaggerated or just plain false.
Posting memes associated with some of these sites is an obsession for some Facebook users. It’s all part of the confirmation bias that afflicts today’s online political discussions, such as they are.
Die-hard supporters of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (or Bernie Sanders or Gary Johnson) too often post items that are ridiculously out of whack. And this wacko material gets spread around in cyberspace by people who never get past the headline. Brayton points out that studies show about 60% of Facebook “shares” are created by people who have not read the full story they are sharing. But, if anyone challenges the trolls, they become defensive to the point of anger.
The Poynter Institute, a leading journalism watchdog organization, recently proposed that Facebook hire a team of fact-checkers who would point out some of the most egregious, fringe material on the world’s most popular social media site.
Facebook has joined a broad effort to fight the proliferation of hoax stories and fake news online by participating in a project, developed by an organization called First Draft, that hopes to expose posts that lack credibility. According to The Hill, a “code of practice” for Facebook posts is also in the works.
As Facebook tries to fend off criticism of a lack partisan balance (in favor of liberal views), their newest cost-cutting measure – eliminating actual journalists to oversee the “Trending Topics” list, in favor of computer algorithms – has been disastrous.
The new robotic process led to phony stories claiming the 9/11 attacks were a conspiracy and that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was backing Hillary Clinton appearing on the trending list.
Over at Patheos, they point out that the right-wing, following the lead of talk-radio, certainly has more than its share of websites that offer outrageous versions of the news. These sites that seduce their audience with fantastical headlines and embarrassingly biased posts include Newsmax, Breitbart, Townhall, The Blaze and The Daily Caller.
“It’s highly disappointing to me that the left has begun to emulate them, as if accuracy simply doesn’t matter as long as (what’s posted) advances their ideological agenda,” Brayton wrote.
Here’s the list of liberal sites he cites for a boycott:
Blue Nation Review
The Freethought Project
American News X
The Other 98%