The Internet once seemed poised to utterly destroy the establishment media. In an era where everyone with a phone and a social media account could reach an audience of millions, the need for professional journalists gatekeeping information seemed pointless.
Yet journalists have savagely fought back against the social media companies that once threatened to displace them. Today, one angry email from a left-wing journalist is enough to get a tech giant to frantically manipulate its algorithms — or even create manual blacklists — to appease them.
The journalists at BuzzFeed have become masters of this tactic. Recently, they launched an investigation into “misinformation” and “hyper-partisan” content on YouTube. A day after the publication of BuzzFeed’s report, YouTube announced it would adjust its algorithms to tackle “misinformation”. The outlet led the media pressure campaign to have Alex Jones booted from Twitter. Anti-censorship comedian Michael Meecham (aka “Count Dankula”) says it was BuzzFeed that made YouTube demonetize his channel, effectively firing him.
Hey I'd have hired some but I can't afford it since BuzzFeed lied about me to YouTube and got my channel demonetized.
But hey keep making "great stuff". https://t.co/rrTOOQAJTS
— Count Dankula🏴 (@CountDankulaTV) January 26, 2019
For another example, look at Breitbart News’ latest scoop on YouTube, which caught the company red-handed altering search results for “abortion” mere hours after a Slate writer complained about the prominence of pro-life content on the platform.
Increasingly, Silicon Valley seems to be governed by a Mafia-like cycle of shakedowns imposed by the mainstream media. It usually follows the same pattern.
First, a relentless wave of negative coverage, aimed at causing outrage about the success of the mainstream media’s competitors on social media. Words like “misinformation,” “hate,” and “conspiracy theories” usually feature in such reports. Example: BuzzFeed – We Followed YouTube’s Recommendation Algorithm Down The Rabbithole.
Second, disingenuous “requests for comment” to advertisers, sponsors, business partners — anyone who the social media platform or the content creator relies on for revenue. (Example: Mandatory.com – PewDiePie Claims Wall Street Journal Tried To Get Him ‘Fired From YouTube’.
Third, unconditional surrender by the social media platform, which promises to ban or cut ties with whoever the journalist objected to, or adjust its search results or algorithm to better appease the mainstream critics. (Example: YouTube Official Blog – Continuing Our Work To Improve Recommendations on YouTube.
Having seen how easy this game is, other journalists follow suit, taking aim at their personal favorite targets — whether its search results on YouTube or the criticism of progressive activists on Twitter. Silicon Valley might consider the advice of Rudyard Kipling — once you pay the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane.
Whereas the alternative media’s main criticism of Silicon Valley is its increasing censorship and favoritism, the objective of the mainstream media seems to be the artificial elevation of its own content on these platforms, and, in true Dane-geld fashion, even extracting payment from the tech giants.
Consider the following examples.
- YouTube adjusted its search algorithm to raise the ranking of “authoritative sources” in search results for “abortion” and “abortions” after a left-wing journalist complained.
- In the same story, we learned that YouTube gave the same treatment for search results related to “David Hogg” — videos critical of the anti-second amendment activist were a frequent complaint of journalists.
- The same story revealed that YouTube is even protecting search results for Maxine Waters, a Democratic congresswoman — the party most favored by the mainstream media.
- YouTube has also announced a push to downrank independent media sources (this is what they mean when they promise to tackle “misinformation”) in its recommended searches.
- In the short-term, this followed criticism from BuzzFeed News about “hyper-partisan” content in recommended videos.
- In the long-term, it followed relentless attacks against YouTube from the mainstream media, which in 2017 sparked the so-called “adpocalypse” — a mass boycott of the platform by advertisers.
- Facebook announced last year that it will pour money into establishment news sources, and artificially promote them in its algorithm.
- YouTube has announced a similar multi-million dollar package of support for “authoritative” journalists.
- This is part of Google’s larger decision to throw $300 million at mainstream journalists.
- Facebook launched a crackdown against U.S.-focused independent media and grassroots political pages, banning approximately 800 of them just weeks before the midterm elections in November.
- When Twitter initially failed to follow other social media platforms by banning Infowars and Alex Jones last year, a relentless intensely negative media attention against the platform followed. Twitter eventually caved in and banned Jones.
- When journalists and progressive celebrities embarked on a barrage of violent threats against MAGA hat-wearing high school kids (on the basis of widely promoted fake news smears by the mainstream media), Twitter failed to deverify or ban the majority of them.
- A week later, when ordinary Twitter users mockingly told journalists that they should “learn to code” if they lose their jobs, Twitter started banning those ordinary users, calling their behavior “targeted harassment.” In other words, violent threats will get you a slap on the wrist from Twitter, but mocking a journalist even once will get you permabanned!
This isn’t a left or right issue, by the way. When Facebook purged independent media pages in November, plenty of left-wing anti-establishment pages were affected too — especially if they leaned libertarian and anti-war.
In other news that should alarm the anti-establishment of both the left and right, Microsoft recently installed the “NewsGuard” browser extension on its mobile Edge browser by default. Founded by two neoconservative ex-journalists, the extension grants a green “trustworthy” or red “untrustworthy” rating to all news sources the user encounters.
Naturally, virtually every establishment news source gets a green tick. You know, the same establishment news sources responsible for fake news panics like Saddam Hussein’s WMDs, terrorist “dirty bombs,” the fictional rape epidemic on American campuses, the bogus Trump-Russia “pee dossier,” the smears against the kids at Covington Catholic high school, the bogus Moscow Tower story, etc etc etc.
Another fun fact about NewsGuard — the journalist-run project that seeks to restore “trust and accountability” to the media is funded by an advertising corporation whose D.C.-based subsidiary spins positive press coverage for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Sounds trustworthy!
Journalists complaining about recent layoffs want you to think that their entire profession is at risk. And maybe it was, at one point. But those same journalists now receive hundreds of millions of dollars from both national governments and tech giants, special favors in the latter’s algorithms, and the regular banning of their competitors. An industry on the verge of extinction? Not while the protection money keeps flowing.