Media Structures & Regulations

Issues ››› Media Structures & Regulations
  • Rape-Promoting White Nationalist Mike Cernovich Announces New Show On Right Side Broadcasting Network

    Cernovich: “If You Love Black Women, Slut Shame Them” To Keep Them From Getting AIDS

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    White nationalist Mike Cernovich announced that he will host a new show on Right Side Broadcasting Network, an outlet dubbed the “unofficial Trump TV” network which has made a name for itself by live-streaming Donald Trump’s campaign events during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Cernovich announced in a January 23 tweet that he was “pleased to announce The Right Mindset will launch” on Right Side Broadcasting Network, and linked a Right Side Broadcasting’s YouTube stream. According to Right Side Broadcasting’s Youtube page, Cernovich’s program “will air February 1st,” and will feature “call-in’s and discussion of national/world topics.”

    Right Side Broadcasting Network has been labeled the “Unofficial Trump TV” network by the Washington Post, which also noted Trump’s presidential campaign had previously “teamed up with Right Side to produce pre- and post-debate analysis shows that streamed on Trump’s Facebook page.” The hiring of Mike Cernovich indicates the network continues to find value in hiring proud racists, following RSBN’s hiring of racist YouTube personality Joey Saladino.

    Cernovich’s ties to white nationalism and the “alt-right” have been repeatedly documented on Twitter and in the media. In 2015 he explained, “I went from libertarian to alt-right after realizing tolerance only went one way and diversity is code for white genocide.” Additionally, in a series of now-deleted tweets, Cernovich declared, “white genocide is real,” and “white genocide will sweep up the SJWs.”

    Cernovich also traffics in sexist rhetoric, and has stated “date rape does not exist,” “misogyny gets you laid,” and declared “If you love black women, slut shame them” to keep them from getting AIDS.

    When Cernovich is not peddling white supremacy, or denying the existence of date rape, he promotes unfounded conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate,” a fabricated story about child trafficking that led to death threats for employees of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, and convinced accused shooter Edgar Welch to enter Comet Ping Pong with a rifle to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory.

  • Fake News Purveyors Cheer On, Echo Trump Team's Lies About Inauguration Crowd Size

    Many Of These Sites Use Google's Advertising Network

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Following demonstrably false statements made by President Trump and White House press secretary Sean Spicer that Trump's inauguration ceremony had “the largest audience to witness an inauguration," numerous websites that Media Matters has identified as purveyors of fake news cheered on Spicer for his comments or attempted to verify his false claims. Nearly all of these websites are still supported, in part, by revenue from Google’s advertising service and many attempted to brand mainstream media reporting about the crowds as “fake news.”

  • After America, Breitbart Plans To Infect Politics Across Europe

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After the 2016 election, Breitbart.com announced its plan to expand into France and Germany, and Italy is reportedly now a target as well. Breitbart’s current European bureau, Breitbart London, appears to be in charge of the website’s Europe content and has a close relationship with the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP). That, coupled with its anti-immigrant content, suggests that the site will try to spread its nativism across Europe by continuing to stoke racist sentiment and allying with anti-immigrant political parties.

  • Fox News Under Fire For Undercovering The Women's March

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News is receiving criticism for its minimal coverage of the historic Women’s March on Washington and dozens of sister marches worldwide that brought together millions of people to stand up for human rights under the Donald Trump administration.

    The New York Times reported that the Women’s March on Washington alone had “at least 470,000” attendees. Washington Post transportation reporter Faiz Siddiqui tweeted that January 21 was the “second-busiest day in metro history” for Washington D.C.’s public transportation system, with over one million trips taken. Across the country, one compilation of march attendance estimated participation of between 3.3 and 4.2 million people in various women’s marches, making it one of the largest manifestations of political activism in U.S. history:

    Despite the historic nature of the event, however, Fox News dipped in and out of their coverage of the march while CNN and MSNBC covered it almost non-stop throughout the day. The Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara reported that minimal coverage on Fox compared to MSNBC and CNN  “firmly reinstated” the “historical divide between Fox News and its compatriots.” McNamara continued that though Fox correspondent Jennifer Griffin “reported from the scene … it was a far cry from minute-by-minute analysis of a huge news event,” while also adding that Fox figures “questioned whether the crowd estimates were accurate” or whether liberals “refuse to accept reality.”

    PolitiFact compared closed captioning transcripts of the three networks for terms “women,” “march,” and “Women’s March” and found large disparities between Fox and the other two cable news networks.

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck pointed to CNN and MSNBC’s “daylong coverage of the protests” before stating that “the massive anti-Donald Trump demonstrations around the world may well be the start of a new political revolution, though you'd never know it if you were tuned into Fox News.” Scheck added that “Fox pretended that nothing special was going on” and that when the network did report on the march, “it was often in a smug, dismissive tone.”

    On January 22, the day following the march, Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz offered a tepid admission his network had not given enough coverage to the marches, saying on his show MediaBuzz that “perhaps” Fox News “undercovered it.” Kurtz also suggested that a CNN headline about the marches sending a “message to Trump” was “overplaying what happened”:

    HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): Yesterday CNN and MSNBC offered virtually nonstop coverage of a huge Women's March here in the nation's capital and in other major cities across the country. We're back with the panel. So while CNN and MSNBC were wall-to-wall, Fox kind of dipped in and out, perhaps undercovered it. I'd be interested to hear your view on that. CNN headline: "Women's marches across the U.S. send message to Trump." Was that overplaying what happened? Was there a clear message?

    JOE TRIPPI (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): I don't think it was overplaying it yesterday. I mean yesterday was pretty big. It was pretty big news. I think you can get into did they overcover and did Fox under, and probably both of those arguments are correct in my view. We should have probably done more.

    Other critics of Fox’s coverage took to Twitter to point out the disparities between Fox, CNN, and MSNBC:

  • Trump Team Blacklists CNN On The Sunday After Inauguration

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    President Donald Trump and his team continued their unprecedented attempts to delegitimize and blacklist CNN by refusing to have a representative appear on CNN’s Sunday political talk show, State of the Union, while booking appearances on the other major political talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co.

    At the top of the January 22 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, host Jake Tapper said that his show “asked the Trump White House for a member of the new administration to join us this morning, but they declined.” Members of Trump’s team including White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, however, made appearances on the other major Sunday political talk shows: This Week on ABC, Face The Nation on CBS, Meet the Press on NBC, and Fox News Sunday on Fox Broadcasting Co. Trump and his team have a long history of blacklisting reporters from events, most notably when Trump revoked The Washington Post’s press credentials during the Republican primaries.

    The Trump team’s presumed blackout of CNN comes after escalating attempts to delegitimize the network, brand it as “fake news,” and avoid questions from CNN reporters. During Trump’s first press conference as president-elect on January 11, Trump refused to take a question from CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, calling his network “fake news” and “terrible.” Following the event, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer admitted to threatening to remove Acosta from the press conference and later demanded an apology. Trump ally and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich responded to the incident by asserting that Trump should use the altercation to “shrink and isolate” CNN and eventually “close down the elite press.” Acosta and his colleagues from across the media condemned Trump’s treatment of CNN.

    On January 12, Trump doubled down on his attacks against the network, claiming on Twitter that CNN “is in a total meltdown with their FAKE NEWS” and that its “credibility will soon be gone.” Trump also pre-emptively attacked a CNN report on his daughter Ivanka, tweeting that CNN “of all places, is doing a Special Report on my daughter, Ivanka. Considering it is CNN, can’t imagine it will be great!”

    The Trump team’s refusal to appear on CNN came one day after it declined to air the live feed of Spicer’s first press conference after the inauguration, where Spicer blatantly lied about the size of inauguration crowds. According to Variety’s Brian Steinberg, “CNN’s refusal to take the live feed suggests executives there are reluctant to put false statements on air, and, what’s more, do not think the new White House press representative is entirely credible.” From the January 21 report:

    “CNN’s decision to not air the press conference live illustrates a recognition that the role of the press must be different under Trump. When the White House holds press briefings to promote demonstrably false information and refuses to take questions, then press ‘access’ becomes meaningless at best and complicit at worst,” said Danna Young, an associate professor at the University of Delaware who studies politics and the media. “Democracy works best when journalists have access to the executive branch, of course. But that holds true if and only if that access leads to verifiable, accurate information. The decision on behalf of CNN to wait and verify before airing it live suggests that the media are adapting quickly to this new era.”

    To be certain, news outlets routinely make decisions about whether to air press events live, usually based on projections about news value. But this press conference, held just a day after the President’s inauguration, would have been a hot prospect for a cable-news outlet, and could have sparked hours of debate and follow-up on CNN’s schedule.  In an unusual and aggressive maneuver, CNN aired its regular weekday lineup this Saturday, underscoring heavy interest in breaking news of a series of massive protests by women across the nation in response to Trump’s presidency as well as the new President’s first few days in office.

    UPDATE: After an entire week of Trump officials not appearing on CNN, Politico quoted a White House official admitting to a “ban” of CNN by the Trump administration. The official claimed “the ban is not permanent,” but gave no details on why the ban was put in place or when it may be lifted.

    For more on Trump’s attacks on the press, check out Media Matters’ First Amendment Watch.

  • Corporation For Public Broadcasting: Reported Trump Privatization Plan Would Be “Devastating” To Public Media

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is pushing back on reported efforts by the Trump administration to privatize it, saying the proposal would have a “devastating effect” and that “the entire public media service would be severely debilitated.”

    CPB is a private nonprofit corporation that receives almost all of its funding from the federal government and distributes those funds as grants to public television and radio stations and their programs. It is the “single largest source of funding for public television and radio programming.”

    “Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy,” The Hill reported this morning. CPB’s annual federal funding of roughly $445 million -- a minuscule fraction of the federal budget -- is one of the items reportedly on the chopping block.

    In a statement to Media Matters responding to the reports, CPB said that “This thinking and proposals like the one being reported in the mainstream media and elsewhere today have been circulating around Washington for years and have been soundly rejected on a bipartisan basis.”

    While many think only of National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) when they think of public media, it actually consists of “a system of independently owned and operated local public radio and television stations” that air a combination of commercial-free original programming and programming licensed from other stations through organizations like NPR and PBS. This programming includes broadcasts on local issues, children’s education, the arts, and public affairs.

    The stations derive funding from multiple sources, but that funding is often contingent on the federal grants CPB provides to more than 1,041 radio stations and 365 television stations.

    The George W. Bush administration tried to use its authority to swing public programming to the right. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Bush’s appointee to chair CPB, used federal funds to examine alleged liberal bias on the PBS program NOW, formerly hosted by Bill Moyers. He also helped raise $5 million to produce a PBS show hosted by The Wall Street Journal’s right-wing editorial board.

    But under Obama, congressional Republicans pushed to eliminate funding for public broadcasting altogether. The found a ready cheering section from right-wing media, which frequently lashed out at “liberal” PBS and NPR. Critics typically say that public media should be able to easily make up the loss of the federal dollars.

    That’s not the case. According to CPB’s statement, “The federal investment in public media is vital seed money -- especially for stations located in rural America, and those serving underserved populations where the appropriation counts for 40-50% of their budget. The loss of this seed money would have a devastating effect.”

    Indeed, “the loss of federal support would mean the end of public broadcasting,” according to a 2012 report commissioned by CPB from Booz & Company.

    The study reviewed alternative funding mechanisms but determined that none could adequately replace federal funding without compromising the mission of public broadcasting. “A reduction or elimination of CPB funding will put 63% (251) of radio stations and 67% (114) of television stations in the public broadcasting system at risk,” according to the report. Many of the stations at greatest risk for shuttering altogether are in rural areas that have more limited programming options -- some are the only broadcast stations available to their audience.

    Booz’s report could not have been more explicit about the “inevitable consequences” of cutting off public funding:

    This report concludes that there is no substitute for federal support of public broadcasting, and that the loss of federal support would mean the end of public broadcasting, and with it the end of an extraordinarily useful national teaching tool, the loss of the most trusted source of news and public affairs programs in the nation, the erosion of our national memory and exceptional culture, the compromise of our civil defense and emergency alert system, and the demise of a federal investment that the American people consider a better use of tax dollars than any other except national defense.

    These are the inevitable consequences of a loss of federal funding for public broadcasting, as this report will demonstrate in detail.

    Booz’s conclusions are consistent with a 2007 report from the federal General Accountability Office, which found that “substantial growth of nonfederal support to offset a reduction or elimination of federal support appears unlikely.”

    Trump isn’t the first U.S. president to go after federal funding for public media. In 1969, President Nixon called for cutting funding for CPB in half. Thanks to the effort of a young Fred Rogers before a congressional committee, those efforts were defeated. Watch:

    You can read CPB’s full statement below:

    Public media is a public-private partnership in the best tradition of America’s free enterprise system. It is one of America’s best investments. It is not a large investment compared to most of what government does – just about $1.35 per citizen per year – but it pays huge dividends in education, public safety and civic leadership to millions of Americans and their families.

    By statute, the majority of the $445 million federal expenditure goes through the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation, which is the steward of the federal appropriation, to more than 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations across the country.

    From time to time, some argue the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and funding for public media are no longer needed. This thinking and proposals like the one being reported in the mainstream media and elsewhere today have been circulating around Washington for years and have been soundly rejected on a bipartisan basis – most recently by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2015. Further, a national survey of 2,000 self-identified Trump voters confirmed that a majority of those voters support level or increased federal funding for public broadcasting.

    The federal investment in public media is vital seed money — especially for stations located in rural America, and those serving underserved populations where the appropriation counts for 40-50% of their budget. The loss of this seed money would have a devastating effect. These stations would have to raise approximately 200 percent more in private donations to replace the federal investment. Moreover, the entire public media service would be severely debilitated. This is because CPB, in addition to direct payment to public media stations, pays for the system’s technical backbone, copyright and other fees, and makes major investments in national content from which all stations and the families they serve benefit. Most critically, public media reaches 68% of all kids age two to eight, providing educational media that’s proven to prepare kids for school, especially low-income and underserved children who do not attend pre-school.

    Indeed, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as well as others, following comprehensive study, have concluded there is no viable private substitute for the federal funding that ensures universal access to public broadcasting' programming and services.

    We look forward to working with the new Administration and the new Congress in the continued pursuit of our public service missions of education, public safety and civic leadership, which the American people overwhelmingly support.

  • “We Can’t Be Intimidated”: Journalists Speak Out On How The Press Should Cover Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Facing the reality of President-elect Donald Trump’s impending inauguration, traditional media outlets can either band together in the face of Trump’s bullying anti-press tactics or risk being steamrolled by the incoming administration.

    In interviews with Media Matters, journalists and other media experts argue that reporters need to be ready to recommit to solid, rigorous reporting to hold Trump accountable and to stand together in the face of the Trump administration’s inevitable anti-press crusade.

    Since being elected, Trump has continued to lash out at critical media outlets through his Twitter account. At his long-delayed first press conference as president-elect last week, Trump berated CNN reporter Jim Acosta, refused to let him ask a question, and dubbed his network “fake news.” Other journalists who were gathered for the press conference essentially just watched.

    Several experts told Media Matters that the Acosta incident highlights the need for journalists to stand up to Trump.

    “Part of the problem here is the press is walking into a buzzsaw,” said Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker. “There is a large percentage of the population that don’t believe us. Anytime a Jim Acosta raises his hand and tries to get the attention of the president-elect, there is a sizeable part of the population that says, ‘There they go again.’”

    “You don’t get the public to pay attention by caving. We can’t be intimidated,” he said. “The fourth estate has a role to play. That role is we are representatives of the public -- we are supposed to ask the question to better inform the public.” 

    In an open letter to Trump, Columbia Journalism Review Editor-in-Chief Kyle Pope argued that the days of Trump trying to pit journalists against one another “are ending. We now recognize that the challenge of covering you requires that we cooperate and help one another whenever possible.” He added, “So, when you shout down or ignore a reporter at a press conference who has said something you don’t like, you’re going to face a unified front.” 

    Pope elaborated on his proposal in comments to Media Matters, writing, “Working together at press conferences could mean not asking a question until a shunned organization has had a chance to be answered; it could mean actually jointly working on stories that are beyond the capabilities of a single news organization, much like ProPublica and the NY Times do now; it definitely means calling attention to good work from our competitors that may not otherwise get adequate notice.”

    Adam Clymer, a former longtime New York Times political reporter, said press organizations need to unify and keep tabs on Trump’s anti-press treatment, recalling when the National Press Club once issued a report on President Nixon’s lack of press conferences.

    “In a public setting, a little solidarity is probably called for,” he said. “In public, they should not tolerate his picking on one person. That is intolerable.”

    Walter Shapiro, a Roll Call correspondent whose experience also includes stints at The Washington Post and Time, predicts, “It is going to be more anti-press. … It is really important for the press to stand together.”

    Media Matters president Angelo Carusone recently launched a petition on MoveOn.org calling on news organizations to stand up to Trump’s attempts to blacklist or ban critical news outlets. (As of January 19, the petition has more than 285,000 signatures.)

    Lynn Walsh, president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), told Media Matters that her group has heard from journalists who “feel threatened” by Trump’s behavior, and they are “talking internally about how we respond.”

    She also said reporters must support each other, citing Shepard Smith of Fox News' quick defense of Acosta last week. SPJ is one of several journalism groups expected to co-sign a joint letter to Trump that raises concerns about his treatment of the press and his moves and plans to limit access, including possibly evicting journalists from the briefing room in the White House.

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) issued a joint statement of concern last week about Trump’s press treatment following a meeting of 50 such groups last week.

    It said, in part, “In discussing top priorities as the Trump administration takes shape, the group agreed that countering legal threats to reporters – such as leaks investigations, libel suits, and a disregard for the Freedom of Information Act – and promoting a public policy in support of the public’s right to know are crucial areas that require a unified response.”

    The journalists Media Matters spoke to also highlighted Trump’s regular disregard for the truth and his complex conflict-of-interest entanglements as challenges media outlets need to overcome in order to properly cover a Trump administration.

    “I think it is going to be very challenging. We have to develop new ways of getting around” attempts to limit access, said George Condon of National Journal, who has covered the White House since 1982 and served as WHCA president in 1993 and 1994. “We will see how much access we have, how the press conferences are and the daily press briefing. If something becomes a pattern, we’ll react. You have to do your job -- find out what the president is proposing, what it will cost, who it will affect.”

    During the campaign, several veteran political reporters and journalists told Media Matters that one of the main deficiencies of media coverage of then-candidate Trump was a routine failure to follow up on important investigative reporting on Trump in favor of latching onto his outrageous comment du jour.

    Steve Scully, C-SPAN senior executive producer and political editor and a former WHCA president, urged reporters to pick and choose what is important to cover and not get drawn into the outlandish story: “Don’t necessarily go for the shiny object; cover the substance. Is it harder? It is harder because he is very adept at trying to redirect the news cycle. We’ve never had somebody quite like Donald Trump in the White House. It is a whole set of new standards.”

    As Media Matters and others have noted, during the transition, outlets have routinely dropped the ball -- especially in headlines -- by parroting Trump’s spin on current events without providing necessary context.

    Lynn Walsh argued that media outlets need to be aggressive about highlighting falsehoods from the administration.

    “If he is saying something that is incorrect, we have to say that is not true,” she said. “If it is incorrect or false, we absolutely have to say that is not true. We have to be better than we’ve ever been. We have to be accurate in our reporting and don’t put information out there that is false or misleading.”

    “This is, I’m sure, going to be the most difficult administration ever to cover because of Trump, because of the internet, because of his apologists,” said Walter Mears, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press political reporter from 1956 to 2001. “I don’t think there is any question.” 

    “All you can do is listen, write down what he says, and be as aggressive as possible in finding out what’s behind it," Mears added. "He’s already demonstrated that he can misrepresent anything by simply saying his version of truth and he’s got a lot of people who will believe it.”

    Several major news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico, have already announced plans to increase White House staffing, doubling it in some cases.

    David Folkenflik, NPR's media correspondent, said it's going to be “very important to follow his business entanglements and legislation. The important thing is not to let the Trump administration off the hook and keep your eye on the ball. We have not heard a full picture of Trump’s relationship with the Russians.”

    He added, “News organizations are going to have to scrutinize and disentangle some of the business relationships, his foreign entanglements, and policy decisions." Given the "combination of the lack of previous scrutiny of Trump and many of his most important figures and the skepticism to contempt he has for the roles the press plays in accountability and transparency," media will "have to be willing to forgo access in order to serve the larger job.”

  • Donald Trump's Hotel Bans Press For The Inauguration, Raising First Amendment Concerns

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President-elect Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel is banning reporters from its premises during inauguration week, according to Politico’s Daniel Lippman. The move underscores the incoming president’s personal hostility toward the press and raises First Amendment issues, as the hotel space is leased by the president-elect from the federal government.

    Throughout the 2016 campaign and into the transition, Trump has made his hostility to the press a centerpiece of his political strategy. Trump declared war on the press, which included mocking specific reporters as “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time.” He retreated to softball interviews during the final weeks of the campaign with largely friendly interviewers, Fox News, and fringe media. Since the election, Trump has lashed out at The New York Times several times for its “BAD coverage.” Trump’s own incoming press secretary also admitted that he threatened to remove a journalist who was trying to ask the president-elect a question, and prominent Trump supporter and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich applauded the threat, calling it “a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” for proper behavior.

    Moreover, as Politico notes, Trump’s D.C. hotel is under “a 60-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property.” Given that arrangement, a blanket ban on the press raises First Amendment concerns. Trump’s D.C. hotel has also been an ethical sticking point during Trump’s transition, as some in Congress have raised concerns about a conflict of interest between the president-elect’s business interests and his administration’s influence over the General Services Administration. From Politico’s January 18 article:

    The Trump International Hotel in Washington is banning the media from its premises during inauguration week.

    “Media is not allowed in this week in respect of the privacy of our guests,” Patricia Tang, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing wrote in an email.

    A POLITICO reporter attempted to enter the hotel Wednesday morning for a previously scheduled breakfast meeting but was stopped at the door. He then identified himself as a journalist and was told “media” was not allowed.

    President-elect Donald Trump and his three adult children own the project after winning a 2012 bid to redevelop D.C.’s Old Post Office. They have a 60-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property.

  • Meet The Mysterious, Facebook-Verified Page Pushing Fake News To Nearly 5 Million Followers

    American News Is Perhaps The Largest Facebook Page Regularly Pushing Fake News

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & PAM VOGEL

    The verified Facebook page for American News (also known as The Patriot Review), with its more than 4.7 million followers, is perhaps the largest page regularly pushing fake news on the social media platform and is emblematic of the problem Facebook must address immediately. It shares dozens of posts each day, often topped with false, clickbait headlines that confirm biases and stoke fear in readers.

    American News also has no publicly listed writers, editors, or owners, nor a business address or phone number. That lack of disclosure helps hyperpartisan websites like American News to publish patently false information without accountability. The page’s opacity and role as a fake news purveyor also demonstrate the murkiness of Facebook’s “verification” guidelines, which require that pages have a publicly listed phone number or business documents showing an official name and address that “matches public records.” 

    Fake News Purveyors Like American News Share Both Hyperpartisan And Fake Content, Often Designed To Stoke Fear

    The American News Facebook page exclusively shares content from the AmericanNews.com website, which pushes a combination of fake news stories -- information that is clearly and demonstrably fabricated and that has been packaged and distributed to appear as legitimate news -- and other hyperpartisan, right-wing content. Stories from American News have been repeatedly debunked as totally “false,” most notably the “100% made up” lie that Denzel Washington had switched from supporting Hillary Clinton to backing Donald Trump in the 2016 election, which was shared hundreds of thousands of times. American News also pushed a fake news story in April claiming that President Barack Obama had issued an executive order to have his likeness added to Mount Rushmore and a 2014 story alleging Congress had approved a bill offering free cars to welfare recipients. The Facebook page for Proud To Be Conservative, with more than 1.5 million followers, also exclusively shares content from the AmericanNews.com website.

    American News posts -- whether sharing fake news or pushing highly partisan and heavily spun content -- have several traits that are common to the content pushed by fake news purveyors: They use classic clickbait headlines, actively seek to confirm far-right ideology, and exploit bigotry and biases. Social media analytics site BuzzSumo, which tracks social media engagement levels for websites, shows that half of American News' 10 most shared stories -- which collectively boasted more than 4 million Facebook engagements -- featured fearmongering about Muslims. Among these was an anti-Muslim fake news story claiming that a Texas man was forced to remove the U.S. flag from his house because it was a "threat to Muslims."

    Here are a few posts the page has shared just in the first days of January:

    This January 5 post pushes a fake story on the American News website claiming that a “Government-backed study” found that teachers were choosing not to teach students about the Holocaust in order to avoid offending Muslims. This story is fabricated; it originated with a 2007 email chain letter spinning false information from a report on schools in the U.K.

    This post, from January 2, shared an American News story alleging that a school had demanded “all must wear hijabs.” This story was also false; a student group at the Wisconsin college in question hosted one event in which students were invited to voluntarily wear hijabs for one day.

    This January 8 post pushed a fake news story that Michelle Obama "accidentally expos[ed] that her husband was born in Kenya." The video attached to the story came from a 2010 post on Alex Jones' Infowars.com and showed Michelle Obama calling Kenya her husband's "home country." Barack Obama was born in the United States.

    American News’ content has also been shared on Twitter by a number of right-wing figures, including Trump-supporting Great America Super PAC spokesman Carl Higbie, who shared a “mostly false” story that Muslims demanded the “army change its dress code to include turbans and beards.” Higbie rose to national attention in November when he suggested that the Japanese internment camps of World War II provide “precedent” for a Muslim registry. American News stories have also been shared by Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin and right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party Deputy Chair Suzanne Evans.

    Fake News Purveyors Such As American News Are Often Totally Anonymous, Leaving Them Unaccountable For What They Post

    Right-wing figures have repeatedly attempted to distort and rebrand the term “fake news” to attack credible news they don’t agree with, but the distinct problem of fake news has several unique symptoms, including a startling level of opacity, which is exemplified by American News. Legitimate news outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and conservative outlets ranging from Fox News to hyperpartisan websites like The Blaze and The Daily Caller -- and even "alt-right" site Breitbart.com -- have accessible public information about their owners and staff. Hyperpartisan pages that push fake news stories, though, like American News, often make it nearly impossible to find any information about the people contributing to their pages or the entities operating them -- even as they rake in tens of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue. This secrecy allows them to remain unaccountable for the content they share, which often includes copied or plagiarized content from other such sites, shared to further spread patently false information.

    On December 15, Facebook announced steps it was taking to combat the epidemic of fake news enabled by its platform, but it did not include any guidelines about verified pages that push fake news stories. Its own verification steps for local businesses, companies, and organizations require that they use either a “publicly listed phone number for your business” or a “business document” that shows “your business’s name and address,” which is then reviewed “to confirm that it matches public records.” There is no publicly available and easily accessible business address or phone number for American News, nor are there any listed staff members for the website.

    A detailed search of articles on AmericanNews.com revealed no posts with a byline other than “by American News” or first names such as "Hank" or "Jeff." The "author" pages linked to these names reveal no details about the alleged writers, including last name, and the URLs for these pages do not match the author names (the URL for Hank's page indicates it is for a writer named "Kyle," and the URL for Jeff's page indicates it is for a writer named "Spencer"). Futhermore, there is no listing of the site's staff or reporters. A search of the online identity database WhoIs shows that whoever registered American News’ domain used a service to mask its street address, owner, and phone number. The only contact information on the website is on its privacy policy page, which says visitors can report violations of the policy to americannewscontact@gmail.com, as well as an inquiries form. American News did not respond to inquiries made through either method. Media Matters additionally consulted a representative from an accredited nationwide business record search engine who was unable to find any additional information about American News or its operations and said it would be nearly impossible given the lack of publicly available information on its website or Facebook page, which do not mention the state where the business is located or a business name other than the domain name.

    Either Facebook has information about American News that is not available for the average user who may encounter the page or Facebook has deviated from its current, perhaps inadequate verification procedure. Whatever the case, the social media giant clearly has more work to do in addressing its fake news problem; without action, it remains complicit in American News’ deceptive fake news tactics.