The only thing that should matter, when it comes to stories like this, is whether or not the material is true and in the public interest. This disturbing new confederation of media outlets and tech firms is rewriting that standard.
The optics of a former Democratic Party spokesman suddenly donning a Facebook official’s hat to announce a ban of a story damaging to Democrats couldn’t be worse. Moreover, the Orwellian construct described in papers like the Times suggests that for tech executives, pundits, and Democratic Party officials alike, the lines between fake news and bad news, between actual misinformation and information that is merely politically adverse, have been blurred. It’s no longer clear that some of these people see a meaningful distinction between the two ideas.
The public can’t help but see this. While papers like the Times denounce the true Podesta emails as “misinformation,” and Facebook says the New York Post story must be kept out of sight until verified, the standard for, say, the Steele dossier was and is opposite. In that case, we were told “raw intelligence” should be published so that “Americans can make up their own minds” about information that, while “salacious and unverified,” may still be freely read on Twitter and Facebook, reported on in the New York Times and Washington Post, and talked about on NBC, so long as it has not been completely “disproven.”
As Erik Wemple of the Washington Post points out, even that last point is no longer true, but the Steele dossier and plenty of other products of what Axios calls “hack and leak” journalism continue to be embraced and freely distributed. The obvious double-standard guarantees that the tech platforms will henceforth be viewed by a huge portion of the population as political censors instead of standards enforcers, and moreover that mainstream press pronouncements about such controversies will be deemed automatically untrustworthy by that same population.