The schools and studies that are shaping technology’s approach to fake news and censorship are biased in favor of the left.
A study released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened with the premise that readers should be able to determine what fake news is and isn’t. Readers were given the chance to rate how much they trusted certain sources, and their ratings were matched with those of professional fact checkers. Heritage’s The Daily Signal, Breitbart, The Daily Caller, The Daily Wire, Independent Journal Review, and RedState were all labeled “hyperpartisan and low quality.”
The definition of hyperpartisan news and low quality journalism in the study was just slightly above fake news. “Lay people across the political spectrum agreed with professional fact-checkers that hyperpartisan and fake news sites should not be trusted.”
On a scale of zero to one, with one being the highest score, sites like The New York Times and The Washington Post were at the top of the 60 sites chosen for analysis. Any score under .5 was considered a marker for “low quality journalism.” The fact-checkers even gave low scores to some of the mainstream sites. Fox News, The Daily Mail, and The New York Post were given scores under .5. This meant that the fact checkers found these outlets to be “overall untrustworthy.”
Ironically, these sites were picked from Buzzfeed and Politifact lists of fake news websites, as well as news sources with the most online traffic (gathered from the Pew Research Center). Buzzfeed has recently stumbled into problems with its reporters after a story about Robert Mueller and President Donald Trump turned out to have no sources.
However, the writers of the paper seemed predisposed to judge conservative sites, making sure to note that they included “the three low-quality sources that were most familiar to individuals in study 1: Breitbart, Infowars, and the Daily Wire.”
The study concluded that a majority of the people surveyed agreed with the professional fact-checkers (with the exception of Republicans who rated Fox News much higher.) However, it seems like an odd premise to rely on public opinion to determine what is true and what is false. Especially, since that public opinion is influenced by those outlets’ competitors.
Dr. Gordon Pennycook of University of Regina and David Rand of MIT wrote the study, which concluded that “ranking algorithms to show relatively less content from sources that users deem to be untrustworthy” was one viable solution to battle fake news on social media. This means that based on MIT’s study, a social media site or a fact-checking organization has more reasons to suppress content that fits their definition of “fake news.”
According to OpenSecrets.org, Rand has donated more than $10,000 in the past 6 years to Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Both Rand and Pennycook have written extensively on “fake news” in the past for academic journals and liberal media.