A few conservative critics predicted early on that the recent obsession with fake news would lead eventually to right-of-center news sites being lumped with the bad actors.
It looks increasingly likely that those critics were onto something.
Harvard University is now sharing with its students a ” fake news” database, which groups nearly every legitimate right-of-center news organization with actual hoax websites.
The Washington Free Beacon, Independent Journal Review, the Daily Caller, the Weekly Standard and the Washington Examiner are all on the list. Each is tagged with derogatory labels, including “clickbait,” “bias,” “unreliable,” “political” or a combination of the four.
Fox News is not included on the list.
Legacy media organizations, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, are also not featured on the list, despite that they’ve bungled several recent Trump-related “scoops.” Also conspicuously absent from the “fake news” collection are notable left-of-center newsrooms, including Mother Jones and the Huffington Post.
The Washington Free Beacon, which is listed under “bias,” has won kudos from even left-of-center critics for its dogged reporting. Three three years ago, for example, the Free Beacon obtained and published a list of donor pledges to the progressive group Democracy Alliance. After that, it unearthed and published rare audio of Hillary Clinton discussing how she defended an accused child rapist as his court-appointed attorney.
Independent Journal Review, which is labeled both “bias” and “unreliable,” most recently scooped everyone with a report confirming that Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee would be Judge Neil Gorsuch.
The Daily Caller, which scored a hat-trick by being labelled “political,” “clickbait” and “unreliable,” is responsible for uncovering the bombshell story that Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, was paid more than $500,000 to represent Turkey’s government even as he campaigned with the then-GOP nominee.
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The Washington Examiner, which is labeled both “political” and “unreliable,” has been at the forefront of uncovering the secret service’s many scandals, ethical lapses and professional missteps.
Despite this good work, each of these news groups has been added to a widely shared list that includes obvious hoaxers. The database of “fake, false, or regularly misleading websites” was compiled last year by Merrimack College associate professor Melissa Zimdars.
Along with clearly fake websites, the list, which was taken offline temporarily but is available now for viewing, also features sites that “may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information” or “sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions.”
“[The] list identifies some fake news sites, some that may be misleading or unreliable that do report sometimes on actual events to various degrees to truthiness,” Zimdars explained in an interview with USA Today. “Then there are sites that generally do okay reporting on stuff, but they rely on clickbait-style Facebook descriptions or headlines to encourage circulation, so sometimes those headlines don’t match with the articles’ content, and that can lead to misinformation.”
“And then the last is just satirical websites that some people take literally. The idea there is that if you’re on The Onion and really mad about what you’re reading, maybe read some more, because this is a satirical website,” she added.
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The purpose of the database was to, “to cover all these different types of sites,” she stressed at the time. Zimdars added that it’s not just a list of “fake sites,” which is a bit difficult to accept considering that’s exactly what it is.
It’s worth noting here that there’s a difference between “fake news” and biased or sloppy journalism. There’s a difference between a “report” claiming Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump, which has no basis in reality, and journalists botching the details of a breaking news event or injecting political bias into their stories.
The problem with the database is that it groups 100 percent false stories, which are knowingly fabricated from thin air, together with coverage Zimdars thinks is either too political, too clickbait-y or generally unreliable. But there’s an obvious difference between what the Daily Caller does and what a group of fake news teens in Macedonia do. Zimdars’ list doesn’t really bother much with that distinction. Further, it’s difficult to accept that the database was made in good faith, considering left-of-center newsrooms go unscathed, while right-of-center newsgroups sit side-by-side with obvious hoaxers on the basis of being “political.”
The database first went viral last year after Hillary Clinton’s stunning and historic loss to Trump, but it’s making a resurgence in some media circles following reports that Harvard is leaning on it as a source.
The guide merely, “offers a brief introduction to the spread of misinformation of all kinds and tools for identifying it, and reading the news with a more informed eye,” according to the school’s library.
The list, which can also be found as a resource for students at both City University of New York and Radford University, is located on the Harvard library website under a page titled, “Fake News, Misinformation, and Propaganda.”
There is a banner on that page called, “Identifying Fake News Sites.” Under that headline is a hyperlink that reads, ” False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources (Huge list of fake news sites).”
That hyperlink takes students to Zimdar’s database, which she swore is not just a list of “fake sites.”
Source: Washington Examiner