Ruh roh

Nov 14, 2016

"Mark Zuckerberg is a goddamn spineless phony"

"Ruh roh @michaelfnunez is reporting on Facebook again." That's Gizmodo's Katie Drummond and the piece of "reporting" she's referring to is one that's boiling many journalists' blood this morning. According to Michael Nunez's reporting, "Facebook's fight against fake news was undercut by fear of conservative backlash." The Financial Times freelancer Rebecca Rose isn't pulling any punches: "I can't even with this. Mark Zuckerberg is a goddamn spineless phony."

Nunez's reporting certainly tells a very different story than the one Zuckerberg himself shared on his Facebook wall over the weekend, telling followers that more than "99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics."

That last bit, about being the news not being limited to "one partisan view" is directly contradicted by Nunez's reporting:

"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."

The news should come as little surprise to writers like New York Magazine's Brian Feldman who wrote back in August that "Facebook's fake news problem and its conservative news problem are the same thing." It's still, as Gizmodo's Eve Peyser puts it, "that sweet Facebook scoop." Motherboard's Derek Mead adds, "This is a good scoop."

But amid all the plaudits journalists are giving to Gizmodo, there's also this from Nieman Lab's Joshua Benton: "I hope @gizmodo at least understands the irony that its own story created said backlash," referring to Nunez's Gizmodo piece from last May arguing that "Facebook routinely suppressed conservative news stories" — a story that factored into Facebook's decision to fire its team of human editors and thus precipitate its fake news crisis. TIME's Alex Fitzpatrick sees things differently, telling Benton, "this isn't on Giz's reporting, it's on Facebook's handling of Giz's reporting." To which Benton replied, "Giz confused editorial judgment with suppression."

And finally, while many journalists have approached this story with a tone of righteous indignation, Popular Science's Kelsey Atherton reminds us that Facebook's behavior is not all that inconsistent with how other big media companies operate: "Media (FB included) has no obligation to give equal time to the factless fantasies of racists but it does every time."

Et tu, Google?

"Google is looking into why a random & inaccurate WordPress blog is the top search result for 'final election count,'" reports Business Insider's Natasha Bertrand. "How did this happen, @google?" tweets Crain's Steve Daniels. "This is just plain scary." (Though at least Google' is "looking into it" which is more than can be said about Zuckerberg if he sticks to his "99% of what people see is authentic" excuse).

News That's Not About The Media But Definitely About Trump

You know who's happy about Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist? You guessed it: White supremacists. That's according to CNN's Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie, who write: "The leaders of the white nationalist and so-called 'alt-right' movement publicly backed Trump during his campaign for his hardline positions on Mexican immigration, Muslims, and refugee resettlement...Bannon's hiring, they say, is a signal that Trump will follow through on some of his more controversial policy positions."

"American Nazi Party chairman said he saw Bannon hiring as proof Trump might be for real," tweets Kaczynski. Meanwhile, "David Duke is REALLY happy Steve Bannon is in the White House," says Kaczynski's CNN colleague Nate McDermott.

It's an important, scary, must-read piece. However, many took issue with this and other stories' use of terms like "alt-right" and "white nationalist" as opposed to stronger, more denunciatory labels: "White SUPREMACISTS, not 'nationalists.' Let's not play this idiot game," says Ron Kampeas, DC bureau chief at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Elsewhere, John Weaver, strategist for John Kasich, tweeted, "Let's be clear here media. Stop using 'Alt Right.' It is the racist, anti-semitic, fascist extreme right. Please be clear & stop normalizing."

What's in the emails?

No, we're not talking about Hillary Clinton; we're talking about the Vice President-elect of the United States: "What's in Mike Pence's emails?" asks Fatima Hussein of the Indianapolis Star, who reports: "Mike Pence wants his communications limited from public access. Experts say this sets a 'dangerous precedent.'" Variety's Ramin Setoodeh has another pertinent question: "Why didn't this story get any national coverage before the election?"

Pence's willingness, in the words of Politico's Blake Hounshell, to go "to court to shield his emails from public scrutiny"—especially after his campaign placed so much emphasis on his opponents' emails—is not only a "dangerous precedent," like Hussein says, but also too ironic for words in the minds of people like MTV News' Jamil Smith who tweeted, "Vice President-elect Mike Pence wants to hide one of his emails. And he's going to court over it. Nothing to add."

"Stop it."

That's the message Donald Trump has for his fans who are reportedly harassing minorities across the country, according to an interview the president-elect gave to Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes last night. Evan McMullin, an independent candidate for president who last Tuesday won 21 percent of his home state Utah, tweeted this in response: "Saying 'stop it' to racist attacks means little when you name white supremacist darling Steve Bannon chief strategist in the very same day."

Trump had a similar message for anti-Trump protesters: "I think it's horrible if that's happening," he told Stahl, before guessing that it was all being exaggerated by the media. Upworthy's Parker Molloy posted a series of tweets addressing those who would seek to delegitimize these anti-Trump protests: "'Stop whining and get over it. It's been almost a week!' say the same folks still upset about a war that ended more than 150 years ago." He also posted a picture of modern-day Tea Partiers costumed in 18th century garb with the caption, "'When Obama won, you didn't see conservatives protesting.' Are you kidding me? You went and became full-on colonial-era LARPers."

The Saddest News of the Day...

...has nothing to do with fake news or Trump. Gwen Ifill, an award-winning television journalist for NBC and PBS, two-time vice-presidential debate moderator, former New York Times reporter, and (judging by the time this Muck Rack writer was lucky enough to meet her) an all-around great human being, has died at the age of 61. You can find somber remembrances all over Twitter today: Mother Jones' David Corn tweeted, "RIP, Gwen Ifill, You were a gracious and good-humored colleague. I always appreciated the time we shared." And Joy Reid of MSNBC talks of her incalculable influence on reporters no matter their background: "Gwen Ifill was a role model to me and to every woman, especially black women who took up the calling of journalism. Honored to have met her."

About the author

reporter covering music tech + politics. bylines @FastCompany @Guardian @thedailybeast @Stereogum I wrote @propublica's fracking song

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