Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson said fact checks and information curation by big tech companies are “dangerous” as they are part of broader efforts by special interest groups to control and censor information that people see.
Attkisson argued these special interest groups traditionally employed the news as their vehicle to present their information to the public, but with the rise of social media and the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, efforts have since been expanded.
“Starting in 2016, they needed to create the perception among us that we needed our information online curated, and fact-checked, and culled through by third parties. And now we’re seeing the fruits of that, you know, the poisonous fruit of that whereby we’ve acceded our control to the special interests that control us through the big tech companies,” Attkisson told The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders.”
“And now they’re telling us we can’t access certain facts, certain studies, certain information, certain viewpoints in a way that is very Orwellian, and I think dangerous.”
Internet companies have increasingly drawn scrutiny over the way they moderate content on their platforms. Companies such as Facebook and Twitter have been rebuked for doing too little about misinformation but have also received backlash for their alleged suppression and censorship of certain viewpoints.
Trump had previously accused Twitter, which added a “fact check” feature, of censorship when it applied fact-checking labels on Trump’s tweets and invited readers to “get the facts” after Trump made claims that mail-in-voting leads to voter fraud.
More recently, Twitter has drawn widespread criticism for suppressing a series of exposés by The New York Post about the business dealings of Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The social media giant has been blocking users from linking to the story on its platform and locking accounts that attempt to do so.
The New York Post was also locked out of its Twitter account after breaking the Hunter Biden story. As of the afternoon of Oct. 24, the Twitter account showed the NY Post’s last tweet was on Oct. 14.
Their actions have prompted lawmakers and the Trump administration to consider rolling back liability protections afforded to these companies under section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which largely exempts online platforms from civil liability for content posted by their users, although they can be held liable for content that violates anti-sex trafficking or intellectual property laws.
Critics say these companies have increasingly acted like publishers or editors, which the law does not protect.
“The choices that Twitter makes when it chooses to suppress, edit, blacklist, shadowban are editorial decisions, pure and simple,” Trump said. “In those moments, Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform and [becomes] an editor with a viewpoint, and I think we can say that about others also.”
Attkisson, the author of the upcoming book “Slanted: How the news media taught us to love censorship and hate journalism,” argues that people are becoming increasingly numb to these social media fact-checks and curation of information and news, which could prove dangerous to the free-flowing of information in the future.
“Many of us are inviting and cheering on these fake fact checks and the curating of our information or news, not realizing I think, the slippery slope that we’re going down, whereby, I think in 10 years if we don’t change things, it’ll be a distant memory that we could find most information we wanted to find on the internet. We won’t be able to access it anymore. Only that which the powerful interests wish for us to see,” she said.
She also argued that newsrooms have over the years moved further away from actual journalism and allowed themselves to be used by these groups or individuals, from both sides of the political spectrum, to advance their agendas and narratives.
“We’ve allowed ourselves and the news to be used as a tool of the propagandist, even inviting them, to use us to put out their talking points on each side every day as if we’re learning anything from it,” she said.
“It’s a really topsy turvy and baffling environment that we’ve allowed ourselves to do this and if you look up the term propaganda in a dictionary, that’s the pure definition of what much of the news is doing today by inviting a political supporter on each side, even if you do it fairly, to spew forth whatever they want the public to believe about something that used to not be considered news and not what we devoted much of our news time to.
“And now it’s wholly dominated the news landscape,” she added.
Petr Svab contributed to this report.