big & boring but serious

Why The NYT Is Cheering On “Censorship Algorithms”
Mike Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg (Blog), Apr 3 2017

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The 2016 Presidential election was a gigantic wakeup call for the corporate press in Pindostan, not so much because Hillary Clinton lost, but because it represented the end of mainstream media’s ability to seamlessly force feed narratives down the throats of a gullible and pliant Pindo sheeple. The marketplace of ideas had been flooded by the internet and the people made a decision. The media wars came and went, and the corporate press lost, badly. The election of Donald Trump was as much a middle finger to the Pindosi corporate press as anything else, and the corporate media didn’t take too kindly to that. Rather than admit failure, refocus and compete within the freewheeling information age, the corporate media has resorted to endless whining and support for tech-overlord censorship. It simply knows it can’t win a fair fight, so it has decided to cheat, as Robert Parry of Consortium News explains in his recent post, below. The key thing to understand about this push is that it has nothing to do with fighting back against actual fake news, ie stories that promote total fabrications. The existence of truly fake articles is simply being used as a smokescreen to disappear alternative opinions from the public debate. That is the real intent of the “fake news” meme.

With the myth of the “Pindostani dream” rapidly being exposed as a sham, the corporate press needs to be able to efficiently propagandize the public in increasingly absurd ways, but the problem is much of the public no longer believes its nonsense. How can corporate media push Pindosis to support things against their interests and better judgement such more war, billionaire worship, and the surveillance state without silencing the opposition? It can’t, which is why it needs to marginalize intelligent and thoughtful people espousing a different perspective. I know for a fact that the corporate press doesn’t care in the least about “truth” or “fairness” in reporting following my own personal experience with the WaPo. Recall that last November, in the aftermath of the media’s panic at Hillary’s loss, the paper pushed forth slanderous accusations against 200 alternative websites, including Liberty Blitzkrieg. For more on that truly deplorable episode, see Liberty Blitzkrieg Included on WaPo Highlighted Hit List of “Russian Propaganda” Websites. Meanwhile, the DoJ, which couldn’t find a bank executive to imprison if its life depended on it, is hard at work trying to institutionalize attacks agains the non-corporate press by going after Wikileaks and Julian Assange. As Glenn Greenwald observed earlier today:

The battle against alternative ideas is truly picking up steam now, and the fight is happening on multiple fronts. It’s not just through algorithms and the DoJ, though: it is also very much an economic battle. I’m sure you all know by now what is happening to political commentators on YouTube of all stripes. Their videos are being demonetized en masse. There is an attempt to hurt alternative voices through technology, the legal system as well as via revenues streams. We will lose this battle unless decent citizens of all political leanings rally around us to support our right to have a voice.

NYT Cheers the Rise of Censorship Algorithms
Robert Parry, Consortium News, May 2 2017

Just days after sporting First Amendment pins at the White House Correspondents Dinner, to celebrate freedom of the press, the MSM is back to celebrating a very different idea: how to use algorithms to purge the Internet of what is deemed “fake news,” i.e. what the mainstream judges to be “misinformation.” The NYT, one of the top promoters of this new Orwellian model for censorship, devoted two-thirds of a page in its Tuesday editions to a laudatory piece about high-tech entrepreneurs refining artificial intelligence that can hunt down and eradicate supposedly “fake news.” To justify this draconian strategy, the NYT cited only a “fake news” report claiming that the French establishment’s preferred presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron had received funding from the Toads, a bogus story published by a Web site that mimicked the appearance of the newspaper Le Soir and was traced back to a Delaware phone number. Yet, while such intentionally fabricated articles as well as baseless conspiracy theories are a bane of the Internet and do deserve hearty condemnation, the NYT gives no thought to the potential downside of having a select group of mainstream journalistic entities feeding their judgment about what is true and what is not into some algorithms that would then scrub the Internet of contrary items.

Since the NYT is a member of the Google-funded First Draft Coalition, along with other mainstream outlets such as the WaPo and the pro-NATO propaganda site Bellingcat, this idea of eliminating information that counters what the group asserts is true may seem quite appealing to the Times and the other insiders. After all, it might seem cool to have some high-tech tool that silences your critics automatically? But you don’t need a huge amount of imagination to see how this combination of mainstream groupthink and artificial intelligence could create an Orwellian future in which only one side of a story gets told and the other side simply disappears from view. As much as the NYT, the WaPo, Bellingcat and the others see themselves as the fount of all wisdom, the reality is that they have all made significant journalistic errors, sometimes contributing to horrific international crises. For instance, in 2002, the NYT reported that Iraq’s purchase of aluminum tubes revealed a secret nuclear weapons program, when the tubes were really for artillery; the WaPo wrote as flat-fact that Saddam Hussein was hiding stockpiles of WMD, which in reality didn’t exist; Bellingcat misrepresented the range of a Syrian rocket that delivered sarin on a neighborhood near Damascus in 2013, creating the impression that the Syrian government was at fault when the rocket apparently came from rebel-controlled territory. These false accounts and many others from the MSM were countered in real time by experts who published contrary information on the Internet. But if the First Draft Coalition and these algorithms were in control, the information scrubbers might have purged the dissident assessments as “fake news” or “misinformation.”

There also should be the fear, even among these self-appointed guardians of “truth,” that their algorithms might someday be put to use by a totalitarian regime to stomp out the last embers of real democracy. However, if you’re looking for such thoughtfulness, you won’t find it in the NYT article by Mark Scott. Instead, the NYT glorifies the creators of this Brave New World. The article reads:

In the battle against fake news, Andreas Vlachos, a Greek computer scientist living in a northern English town, is on the front lines. Armed with a decade of machine learning expertise, he is part of a British start-up that will soon release an automated fact-checking tool ahead of the country’s election in early June. He also is advising a global competition that pits computer wizards from Pindostan to China against each other to use artificial intelligence to combat fake news. As Europe readies for several elections this year after Pres Trump’s victory in Pindostan, Mr Vlachos, 36, is one of a growing number of technology experts worldwide who are harnessing their skills to tackle misinformation online. Computer scientists, tech giants and start-ups are using sophisticated algorithms and reams of online data to quickly and automatically spot fake news faster than traditional fact-checking groups can.

The NYT quotes the promoters of this high-tech censorship effort without any skepticism:

‘Algorithms will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting misinformation,’ said Claire Wardle, head of strategy and research at First Draft News, a nonprofit organization that has teamed up with tech companies and newsrooms to debunk fake reports about elections in Pindostan & Eurostan. ‘It’s impossible to do all of this by hand.’ So far, outright fake news stories have been relatively rare. Instead, false reports have more often come from Europeans on social media taking real news out of context, as well as from fake claims spread by state-backed groups like Sputnik, the Russian news organization.

Though providing no details about Sputnik’s alleged guilt, the NYT article links to another NYT article from Apr 17 by Andrew Higgins that accuses RT.com of “fake news” because it detected a surge in opinion polls for Francois Fillon, who stands accused in the mainstream media of having a positive relationship with Putin. Oddly, however, further down in the story, Higgins acknowledges that “lately, Mr Fillon has seen a bump in real opinion polls.” Ultimately, Fillon finished a strong third with 20% of the vote, 1% behind Marine Le Pen and four points behind Emmanuel Macron. It’s also curious that the NYT would fault RT.com for getting poll results wrong, when the NYT published predictions, with 90% or more certainty and 85% on Nov 8 that Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election. Beyond failing to offer any evidence of Russian guilt in these “fake news” operations, Tuesday’s NYT story turns to the NATO propaganda and psychological warfare operation in Latvia, the Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, with its director Janis Sarts warning about “an increased amount of misinformation out there.” The Stratcom center, which oversees information warfare against NATO’s perceived adversaries, is conducting “a hackathon” this month in search of coders who can develop technology to hunt down news that NATO considers “fake.” Sarts, however, makes clear that Stratcom’s goal is not only to expunge contradictory information but to eliminate deviant viewpoints before too many people can get to see and hear them. Sarts told the NYT:

State-based actors have been trying to amplify specific views to bring them into the mainstream.

As the NYT reports, much of the pressure for shutting down “fake news” has fallen on Pindosi tech giants such as Facebook and Google, and they are responding:

After criticism of its role in spreading false reports during the Pindosi elections, Facebook introduced a fact-checking tool ahead of the Dutch elections in March and the first round of the French presidential election on Apr 23. It also removed 30,000 accounts in France that had shared fake news, a small fraction of the approximately 33 million Facebook users in the country.

And, according to the NYT, this censorship movement is spreading:

German lawmakers are mulling potential hefty fines against tech companies if they do not clamp down on fake news and online hate speech. Since last year, Google also has funded almost 20 European projects aimed at fact-checking potentially false reports. That includes its support for two British groups looking to use artificial intelligence to automatically fact-check online claims ahead of the country’s Jun 8 parliamentary election. … David Chavalarias, a French academic, has created a digital tool that has analyzed more than 80 million Twitter messages about the French election, helping journalists and fact-checkers to quickly review claims that are spread on the social network. After the presidential election in Pindostan last year, Dean Pomerleau, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, also challenged his followers on Twitter to come up with an algorithm that could distinguish fake claims from real news. Working with Delip Rao, a former Google researcher, he offered a $2k prize to anyone who could meet his requirements. By early this year, more than 100 teams from around the world had signed on to Mr Pomerleau’s Fake News Challenge. Using a database of verified articles and their artificial intelligence expertise, rival groups, a combination of college teams, independent programmers and groups from existing tech companies already have been able to accurately predict the veracity of certain claims almost 90% of the time, Mr Pomerleau said. He hopes that figure will rise to the mid-90s before his challenge ends in June.

So, presumably based on what the NYT, the WaPo, Bellingcat and the other esteemed oracles of truth say is true, 90% or more of contrary information could soon be vulnerable to the censorship algorithms that can quickly detect and stamp out divergent points of view. Such is the Orwellian future mapped out for Western “democracy,” and the NYT can’t wait for this tightly regulated, one might say rigged “marketplace of ideas” to take over.

2 Comments

  1. Posted May 4, 2017 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Problem here is the incorrect assumption that NYT or WaPo actually CARE about the facts. These organizations are Deep State
    infiltrated propaganda mouthpieces filled with hacks and presstituts.The alt-media and internet reporters humiliate these
    schills in MSM every day with serious research and reporting.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    god yeah.

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