Who Will Watch the Watchers?

Who Will Watch the Watchers?

December 18, 2016

by Uncola:

On December 15th, 2016 Facebook announced a series of measures designed to address what they have termed the “issue of fake news and hoaxes”. The assault on fake news by Facebook will consist of four initiatives including: Easier reporting by readers, flagging stories as disputed, informed sharing and disrupting financial incentives for spammers.

If Facebook readers, in their infinite wisdom, decide a certain shared story is a hoax, they can simply click the right hand corner of the post. This is great. Why, it might even make the Facebook community a last line of defense in the online information war. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am going to sleep much better knowing this. What could go wrong?

Next, in order to flag any story as fake news, Facebook has started a program working with third-party fact checking organizations that are “signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles.

Thirdly, “Informed Sharing” is explained by Facebook in this way:

We’re always looking to improve News Feed by listening to what the community is telling us. We’ve found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it, that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way. We’re going to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it.

This should really help lessen the spread of fake news. No doubt. Who knows, it might even be a great way to suppress stories that are true, as well; should they offend the delicate sensitivities of certain snowflakes on Facebook and also be deemed unworthy by the Poynter International Fact Checking Network (IFCN). What a deal. Let us thank the Lords above as our Watchers and Protectors look out for the rest of us down here, below.

Finally, the disrupting of spammers is necessary in order to prevent websites “masquerading as well-known news organizations” in order to make sure the stories viewed on Facebook are “authentic and meaningful”. Who wouldn’t want this? Obviously, “spammers” have become the new “niggers”.   Of course they belong in an online ghetto in order to assure the prosperity of the pure, the “authentic” and the “meaningful”.

As you probably have perceived by now, these measures will completely hinge upon the review and final judgement of Facebook’s so called fact checkers. But who are they?

Well, so far, it looks like Politifact is joining Facebook in the fight against fake news and Snopes is only too happy to lend a hand as well.

First, let’s consider Politifact. According to Wikipedia, Politifact.com is owned by the Tampa Bay Times and the Tampa Bay Times is owned by the Times Publishing Company. Guess who owns the Times Publishing Company? Why, no other than the Poynter Institute who is, evidently, very good at losing money. This is no problem though, because the aforementioned Poynter International Fact Checking Network (IFCN) has some very wealthy benefactors. According to multiple fake news sources, including Breitbart:

IFCN is hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. A cursory search of the Poynter Institute website finds that Poynter’s IFCN is openly funded by Soros’ Open Society Foundations as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and the National Endowment for Democracy.

I suppose Breitbart should not be reporting this information. No doubt these facts would be deemed by Facebook as not “authentic and meaningful”. No wonder American companies like Kellogg and Allstate are pulling their advertising from Breitbart. How else could they meet Facebook’s new censorship standards? It’s just business.

Soon, with search engines like Google and Facebook banning fake news websites maybe the fake news from Breitbart will no longer even appear in online search rankings.

Don’t think Google is biased? Think again. Anyone who searched Google regarding the health of Hillary Clinton after her collapse at the 911 Memorial in New York City this year can testify first hand to the bias of Google’s favored candidate. In September, I wrote an essay on the mainstream media’s reporting of Hillary’s health entitled “Hear No Evil. See No Evil. Vote No Evil.” In researching this article I was amazed at how the Google searches were completely biased and how the Snopes and Politifact narratives ranked as the top listings. In fact, they all seemed to give Hillary an A+ for vigor, energy and enthusiasm. I wasn’t the only one to notice the bias either, as it was also reported in the national media at the time. Still, even today, Snopes claims any Google search bias to be false.

In spite of what Snopes says, there does appear to be obvious collusion between Google and the fact checker websites. Years ago, my day job required working with programmers in Silicon Valley and India who specialized in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in order to elevate the rankings of websites. In fact, before I went Galt in 2011, my company consistently ranked number one in Google searches for my chosen field and had done so since 2003. Just to give you an idea, I just now Google searched the most common keywords for my company’s specific expertise and this is what it said at the top of the page:

About 163,000,000 results (0.95 seconds)

That shows you the level of competition in my business field.   At one time during the mid-2000’s I was additionally spending thousands of dollars a month on Google AdWords to support various commercial endeavors. Here, I learned two things:

1.) Google can immediately optimize a website for their Adwords that would normally take days or weeks to elevate rankings through normal SEO procedures

And

2.) Google was committing click fraud

Regarding # 2 above, I have documentation that absolutely proves Google was being dishonest in their Adwords program. They later admitted it under duress to the tune of $90 million.

This is why I would not be surprised to see collusion on the part of Google and the fact checkers. As I stated above, in my experience, whenever I arranged to optimize a website to increase SEO rankings it would take days or weeks for the measures to propagate on the web. But the fact checkers don’t seem to have this delay with Google. Why?

A few years ago Google tweaked their search algorithms to account for “relevancy” primarily in accordance to corresponding websites. In other words, it used to be the terms and keywords on your own website that took precedence; but now, Google increases search horsepower based more upon what other websites say about you.

Could this be how Google is boosting the PageRank of certain fact checker websites? I am not sure. But there does seem to be something strange going on.

Here is an example. On December 15th, 2016, Donald Trump tweeted this question:

If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?

Within hours, if not minutes, of this Tweet, Google was ranking the Politifact response at the top of the search pages where Politifact identified Trump as a “Pants on Fire” liar: They said:

Only that’s not true. The administration announced its findings a month before Election Day, and the White House’s announcement prompted a memorable exchange at the final presidential debate.

Notice how the fact checker twisted the facts? Trump asked why the White House took so long to “act”. Yet Politifact responded as if the Obama Administration’s announcement was an action. The only reason the White House falsely accused Russia at that time was to mitigate the damage being caused by the WikiLeaks e-mail dumps. Do you think if Hillary would have won the election that Obama would be “acting” the way he is now towards the President Elect regarding the alleged Russian conspiracy? Highly doubtful.

But facts and “fake news” aside, the real story here is how quickly the Politifact response propagated on the web in the form of “top of page” search engine rankings. This could not have been done by the fact checker alone because the searches are conducted through Google. Tell me if this doesn’t seem downright Orwellian.

Now, consider another example showing how SLOW the fact checkers can be when they want to:

On the same day as Trump’s “Russia” Tweet, also on December 15th, 2016: Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference regarding the validity of President Obama’s long form birth certificate. This was deemed important enough to have placement at the top of the page on another fake news website called the Drudge Report.

Yet, conduct a search on Politifact for “Obama Birth Certificate Sheriff Joe Arpaio” and you only get one hit from June, 2012. Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot from tonight, which is now three days later:

fact_1_politifact_birther_2_s-copy

Looks like Politifact moves fast when they want to and slow when they don’t. Nope. No bias there.

Now let’s talk about Snopes.com. According to their page on Wikipedia, Snopes was created by Barbara and David Mikkelson in 1995 and currently receives 300,000 visits a day. According to their website, Snopes is named after a family of characters who “appear throughout the works of American writer William Faulkner”.

Do any sort web search on the Mikkelsons and you will get the idea they, and the website they founded, are paragons of independence and piety. You will discover how Barbara Mikkelson is a Canadian citizen and unable to vote in US elections and that David Mikkelson is an independent who once registered as a Republican.

However, on the Snopes.com Frequently Asked Questions page, they address the accuracy of their information as follows:

The research materials we’ve used in the preparation of any particular page are listed in the bibliography displayed at the bottom of that page so that readers who wish to verify the validity of our information may check those sources for themselves.

Therein lies the rub. In any one of their given “fact checks” they will frequently reference politically left-leaning sources such as CNBC, The New York Times, Politico and Salon. Moreover, they employ political fact-checkers such as Kim Lacapria, who is a known past liberal blogger.

But is Snopes actually biased? Well, in the above example of Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s recent press conference, nothing is currently mentioned in spite of it being reported in the national media this past week.

As I write this tonight, if you queried Obama’s birth certificate on Snopes.com you would see them claim the allegations of forgery as “false” with David’s Mikkelson’s last update being from February, 2014 and citing references from the New York Times, USA Today, Salon as well as other “corporate media” sources. In fact, the page even says this regarding Obama’s long form birth certificate:

Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio produced no new evidence demonstrating that document to be a forgery.

Another interesting perspective regarding Snopes is their attempt to debunk statements made by Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign about Hillary Clinton’s questioning of Obama’s “birther issue” during the 2008 presidential primaries. Snopes labels Trump’s statement as “False”. This this is misleading, to say the least.

Trump said:

Hillary Clinton and her campaign started the birther controversy in 2008. I finished it.

At the time he was deflecting efforts by the Clinton campaign and the corporate media both of whom were attempting to label him as a racist conspiracy freak over the birther issue. But, by bringing up the 2008 campaign, Trump cleverly threw the entire matter back onto Hillary’s “lap”, so to speak.

Anyone paying attention could see through the ruse. Conversely, anyone checking Snopes to verify the media’s reporting of this would see the “False” label at the top of the page and, at a glance, believe Trump to be a liar. However, if you actually read further down the Snopes page, it claims Trump was wrong only on the technicality of Clinton “starting” the birther conspiracy. This is disingenuous. Hillary was, indeed, the first presidential candidate to bring up the controversy of Obama’s birth during an election cycle but, of course, she was not the very first person to mention the subject.

Do you see how that works? Can you understand how the fact checkers can spin their own versions of fake news? And now, it seems Facebook, with the help of Google, will be appointing online foxes in charge of guarding the internet henhouse.

When censorship reigns, who will fact check the fact checkers?

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