Media Structures & Regulations

Issues ››› Media Structures & Regulations
  • Google Announces Steps To Ban Fake News From Using Its Ad Service, Bolder Steps Needed For Facebook

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times reports “Google announced it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service, a decision that comes as concerns mount over the impact online hoaxes may have had on the presidential election.” Facebook has also faced criticism over the proliferation of fake news on the site, but will need to take larger steps to address their problem.

    According to the Times, Google decided to “extend its ban on misrepresentative content to the websites its advertisements run on.”

    Google announced it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service, a decision that comes as concerns mount over the impact online hoaxes may have had on the presidential election.

    The decision relates to the Google AdSense system that independent web publishers use to display advertising on their sites, generating revenue when ads are seen or clicked on. The advertisers pay Google, and Google pays a portion of those proceeds to the publishers. More than two million publishers use Google’s advertising network.

    For some time, Google has had policies in place prohibiting misleading advertisements from its system, including promotions for counterfeit goods and weight-loss scams. Google’s new policy, which it said would go into effect “imminently,” will extend its ban on misrepresentative content to the websites its advertisements run on.

    [...]

    Facebook has been at the epicenter of that debate, accused by some commentators of swinging some voters in favor of President-elect Donald J. Trump through misleading and outright false stories that spread quickly via the social network. One such false story claimed that Pope Francis had endorsed Mr. Trump.

    [...]

    Google, too, faced criticism after last week’s election for giving prominence to false news stories. On Sunday, the site Mediaite reported that the top result on a Google search for the words “final election vote count 2016” was a link to a story on a website called 70News that falsely stated that Mr. Trump, who won the Electoral College, was ahead of his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, in the popular vote.

    By Monday evening, the fake story had fallen to the No. 2 position in a search for those terms.

    Facebook also announced that it will ban “fake news sites form using the company’s advertising network to generate revenue,” after facing intense criticism following election of Trump because of the fake right-wing news that spread on the site throughout the campaign. But Facebook still allows fake news to be spread on users’ feeds where they can still generate revenue. Facebook officials even admit that the site could have updated their News Feed feature which would have identified fake news stories but claimed it would have “disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds.”

    Join Media Matters in calling for Facebook to fix their fake news problem.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Is Too Scared Of Being Accused Of “Bias” By Conservatives To Address Fake Stories

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Tens of millions of Americans get their news from Facebook and an increasing amount of that news is fake. 

    In May, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with right-wing media personalities over concerns that “many conservatives don’t trust that [Facebook] surfaces content without a political bias.” Following the meeting, Zuckerberg noted how important conservative engagement was to Facebook by stating, “Donald Trump has more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate. And Fox News drives more interactions in its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world. It’s not even close.”

    Following the outcry by conservatives of political bias, Facebook adopted revised guidelines on its Trending Topics, promised its reviewers would undergo new training “that emphasized content decisions may not be made on the basis of politics or ideology,” and fired the 18 human editors it used to write descriptions of trending topics and ensure their accuracy.

    Facebook's response to the cries of “political bias” backfired on the company after just 72 hours when fake stories began trending, including a story about Fox News host (and Trump agitator) Megyn Kelly being fired from the network.

    The response from Facebook over conservatives’ concerns of “political bias” stand in contrast to the company’s response to reports that fake stories and hoaxes have taken over the News Feed of the platform, which according to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of web-using Millennials and 39 percent of Baby Boomers use to get their political news.

    A recent study by Buzzfeed found “hyperpartisan political Facebook pages and websites are consistently feeding their millions of followers false and misleading information,” with one of the most egregious examples being a group of pro-Trump websites originating in Macedonia which were “playing a significant role in propagating” false and misleading pro-Trump articles. One of the Macedonians contacted for the story, a 17-year-old, said, “I started the site for a easy way to make money.”

    Zuckerberg initially downplayed the widespread problem of fake news on Facebook and its effect on the election, saying “it’s a very small amount of the content,” and calling it a “crazy idea” that the hoaxes influenced the election. Zuckerberg has since acknowledged that his platform has a problem with false stories, but rather than meeting with journalists to discuss solutions as he did with conservatives in May, Zuckerberg offered up the excuse that “identifying the truth is complicated,” and once again expressed concern that Facebook “find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful.” Gizmodo reported that Facebook executives recently conducted a review of the News Feed process that would have eliminated fake and hoax stories, but that the plan was set aside due to concern that removing false stories would upset conservatives:

    According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

    “They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

    Recently Buzzfeed reported that despite fear of losing their jobs for and being warned about speaking to the press, “dozens” of Facebook employees have formed “an unofficial task force” to address the company’s role in spreading misinformation.

    Join Media Matters in asking Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to fix their fake news problem by signing our petition.

  • Breitbart’s Curt Schilling Praises Photo Of Man Advocating For The Lynching Of Journalists

    Curt Schilling: “So Much Awesome Here”

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Breitbart radio host Curt Schilling praised an image of a man wearing a shirt that promoted the lynching of journalists. In a November 7 tweet, Schilling responding to a picture of a man wearing a shirt that said, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required,” tweeting “Ok, so much awesome here”:
    Schilling Deleted Tweet

    While journalists have condemned the shirt’s message, Schilling’s post continues his promotion of inflammatory and offensive rhetoric, including memes comparing Muslims to Nazis, a comparison of the Confederate flag to biblical imagery, and an image suggesting that participants in a march commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” including civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), were not patriotic.

    UPDATE: Curt Schilling has since deleted the offensive tweet.

  • Days Before The Election, Sunday Shows Turn Almost Exclusively To White Guests

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    In their final editions before the 2016 election, over 80 percent of guests on the five Sunday morning political talk shows were white. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s racism has been a consistent theme of the race, but those shows hosted only 10 people of color out of 53 total guests.

    CBS’s Face The Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday each hosted only one person of color on the November 6 edition of their show, with Jamelle Bouie, Van Jones, and Juan Williams each appearing in panel discussions. NBC’s Meet The Press hosted three people of color: reporter Kristen Welker and panelists Jose Diaz-Balart and Fred Yang. ABC’s This Week set a higher bar, with four out of 12 guests being people of color. Two of those guests, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), appeared in a panel discussion.

    Here are the major political panels on each of those programs:

    Trump’s historic racism has been well documented. He began his recent political career in 2011 by spreading the racist and baseless accusation that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; used his first campaign speech to call Mexicans criminals and rapists; said a federal judge could not be fair to him because of his “Mexican heritage”; lashed out at Muslim Gold Star parents; has been celebrated by white nationalists; hired Steve Bannon, who oversaw Breitbart News’ attempts to normalize and embrace the white nationalist movement; and last week was endorsed by “one of the most prominent newspapers of the Ku Klux Klan.”

    Indeed, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria opened the November 6 edition of his show by highlighting Trump’s unprecedented racism as part of “the core views of Donald Trump,” noting that “Trump has consistently expressed himself -- in word and deed -- in ways that can only be described as racist.” Zakaria expanded on Trump’s history of racism, including being sued by the Justice Department for “allegedly denying housing to qualified black people” and his “striking[]” refusal to accept the innocence of the Central Park Five.

    In 2015, Media Matters’ annual Sunday shows report found that white men represented more than 50 percent of all guests on the five shows and that white persons in general made up more than 75 percent of the guests on each show.

  • Journalists Condemn CNN's Lewandowski Embarrassment After Trump Campaign Manager's "#teamwork" Tweet

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    CNN’s ethical dilemma over its employment of Corey Lewandowski, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, as a political analyst was on display once again when current campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her and Lewandowski with the caption “#teamwork #NH.”

    CNN’s use of on-air Trump surrogates has drawn widespread condemnation, with media critics pointing out that the practice has undercut the “work of [CNN’s] journalists.” Despite these concerns, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker has stood by the network’s decision to give Trump surrogates a platform to spread lies and derogatory rhetoric, claiming that CNN has a responsibility “to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for” Trump, rather than to provide viewers with accurate analysis.

    Lewandowski has been at the center of CNN’s ethical dilemma, with many criticizing the network for employing him as an analyst while he was still receiving payments from the Trump campaign, advising the Trump campaign, working on debate prep for the Trump campaign, traveling with the Trump campaign, and campaigning with Trump.

    A week after calling on the “@CNN Dream Team” of Trump surrogates to “stay strong,” on November 4, current Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her, press secretary Hope Hicks, and Lewandowski, captioning the tweet “#teamwork.” The tweet spurred criticism from members of the media, with The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple saying it “should shame everyone at CNN” and noting that “now we know that officially and unequivocally, the Trump campaign regards a paid CNN commentator as part of the team.” Others called the tweet -- and what it signifies about the relationship between a CNN analyst and the Trump campaign -- “totally inappropriate.”

    Sign Media Matters petition and tell CNN to cut ties with Corey Lewandowski immediately.

  • CNN's Stelter Explains How Hannity “Embraced” A Fake Story That Would’ve Been “Disproven By A Quick Twitter Search”

    Brian Stelter: This “Claim Could Have Been Disproven By A Quick Twitter Search”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter outlined how Fox host Sean Hannity “embraced a piece of fake news about President Obama deleting endorsements of Hillary Clinton from his Twitter account.”

    Stelter reported in a November 1 article that Hannity’s decision to promote the story that “could have been disproven by a quick Twitter search ...illustrates how fake new stories expand and spread from fringe web sites to nationally syndicated radio shows with millions of listeners”:

    Sean Hannity on Tuesday embraced a piece of fake news about President Obama deleting endorsements of Hillary Clinton from his Twitter account.

    Hannity used the made-up news to claim that President Obama's legacy might be "jail."

    The deleted-tweets claim could have been disproven by a quick Twitter search.

    The progression of events illustrates how fake news stories expand and spread from fringe web sites to nationally syndicated radio shows with millions of listeners. In this case, the fake news originated on a dubious site called "Your News Wire," which publishes a mix of true, slanted and made-up news. Then, like a game of telephone, by the time the story got to Hannity, even the fake facts were wrong.

    [...]

    By 4 p.m., the made-up claims were on "The Sean Hannity Show." Hannity was talking about revelations from the Wikileaks trove of stolen Clinton campaign emails. He began to read information about Warren and Obama, then said "What?"

    A female voice chimed in to report: "Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren have both unfollowed Hillary Clinton, as well as scrubbing their timeline of tweets about her."

    "Wow," Hannity said, and paused. "That means they know it's huge. You know why? Because Obama's implicated! He's implicated here, and he's pissed. You know what his legacy might be? Jail."

    Hannity later apologized for advancing this false news story, tweeting “correction. Live on radio I read a gateway pundit report that @MichelleObmaa had deleted mentions of HRC. And a listener said BHO and …” “Elizabeth Warren did same. Fact is they didn’t. I humbly apologize. Live radio”:

  • Mark Halperin’s Donald Trump Interview Even Fails The Mark Halperin Test

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Mark Halperin’s widely panned interview with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was obsequious and didn’t yield any news, as many critics have pointed out. But it also failed Halperin’s own requirement that journalists who interview Trump ask him about his unprecedented refusal to release his tax returns in order to pressure him to follow presidential election norms.

    Halperin, the host of Bloomberg News’ With All Due Respect (which also airs on MSNBC) and Showtime’s The Circus, interviewed Trump following the candidate’s October 26 publicity event for his new hotel in Washington, D.C. After portions of the interview aired on his Bloomberg show, critics called Halperin’s questions “truly laughable,” compared him unfavorably to Sean Hannity, and suggested he was seeking a job on Trump TV.

    The full interview, later published on the YouTube channel for The Circus, does nothing to bolster that initial assessment. Halperin had a rare opportunity, for a mainstream journalist, to ask tough questions of the GOP nominee. Instead, questions included:

    • “But how does a building connect to your presidential aspirations and your qualities?”

    • “You’d be surprised to hear that Hillary Clinton’s already criticized the hotel?”

    • “But people who say this was a great Trump speech, as far as you’re concerned, they’re all great or?”

    • “You’ve redefined how candidates talk about polls. Some polls now you’re winning, some you’re behind. We’ve got a new poll where you’re up in Florida. What’s your general sense of where you are in the battleground states?”

     

     

    Halperin’s questions not only fail as journalism, but they also fail the standard that Halperin himself has laid down for Trump interviews.

    In May, Halperin declared that journalists are “obligated” to keep pushing Trump until he releases his “full [tax] returns” just like every nominee has done for decades. He specifically stated that “we have to all keep asking, as many of us have asked. I've asked him several times about it -- he gives roughly the same answer. He's going to have to put out the returns, I’m almost certain, and we should demand full returns, not just the summary.” His co-host John Heilemann has also suggested that journalists “try every time we sit in front of him make it clear to him that it's not OK that he violate what has become a norm in American elections over the past 30 or 40 years.”

    The New York Times on October 1 produced three pages from Trump’s 1995 tax returns, which showed that he had declared a $916 million loss that “could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.” Yet Trump has continued to offer a series of excuses for why he won’t release any tax returns.

    Halperin had the opportunity to follow his own standard and press Trump on his refusal to follow a decades-old requirement for presidential nominees. Instead, he asked the candidate if he agreed with the “people” who supposedly said that “this was a great Trump speech.”

  • NY Times Executive Editor: CNN And Fox Campaign Coverage Is “Bad For Democracy And Those Institutions”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet condemned U.S. cable news -- particularly CNN and Fox News -- for their “ridiculous” presidential campaign coverage in an interview with the Financial Times, accusing the networks of, as the paper described it, “blurring the line between entertainment and news and pandering to partisan viewers.”

    In the interview, Baquet criticized CNN’s hiring of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, saying, “I’m sorry, that is outrageous. I cannot fathom that,” and calling Lewandowski “a political shill.” CNN created an ethical nightmare for the network when it hired Lewandowski, who still advises the Trump campaign, probably cannot legally disparage his former boss, and was paid simultaneously by CNN and the Trump campaign for months. CNN has also paid surrogates to go on air and defend Trump’s many false and offensive statements at almost any length.

    Baquet was “most critical of Fox News” in his interview, the Financial Times reported, noting that the network “‘at its heart is not a journalistic institution.’” Baquet described Fox’s coverage as “‘some weird mix of a little bit of journalism, a little bit of entertainment, a little bit of pandering to a particular audience.’” Fox served as a safe space for Trump for weeks before the first presidential debate as he managed to almost entirely avoid being interviewed on other networks, and during the Republican primaries, Fox gave Trump more than double the airtime of any other Republican candidate. In addition, Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity endorsed Trump following the primaries, has given Trump more than $31 million in free publicity, serves as an informal adviser to Trump, and has defended his softball coverage of Trump by asserting that he’s “not a journalist.”

    Baquet concluded that the two networks’ conduct is “in the long run, bad for democracy and those institutions,” noting that Trump is “a product of that world.” From the October 28 Financial Times interview:

    US cable news networks have played a “ridiculous” role in the presidential campaign by blurring the line between entertainment and news and pandering to partisan viewers, Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, has said.

    Mr Baquet said CNN had been wrong to hire Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, as a commentator and was in danger of damaging both itself and democracy. “I’m sorry, that is outrageous. I cannot fathom that,” he said of Mr Lewandowski’s onscreen role, describing him as “a political shill”.

    Mr Baquet, in an interview in London to mark the New York Times’ digital expansion internationally, was most critical of Fox News, the rightwing news network owned by 21st Century Fox, and its former chairman Roger Ailes. Mr Ailes resigned in July following accusations that he sexually harassed female staff, which he denies.

    “Fox News at its heart is not a journalistic institution. Megyn Kelly [a Fox presenter] is a great journalist, Chris Wallace is a great journalist, but it is some weird mix of a little bit of journalism, a little bit of entertainment, a little bit of pandering to a particular audience … I don’t think Roger Ailes will go down as one of the great journalists of his time.”

    Mr Baquet described the conduct of Fox News and CNN as “in the long run, bad for democracy and those institutions … This mix of entertainment and news, and news masquerading as entertainment, is kind of funny except that we now have a guy who is a product of that world nominated as Republican presidential candidate.”