Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is under enormous pressure from the left to crack down on the "fake news" circulating on the social-media giant. He is well-advised to run as far as he can from the News Police.
In a recent note on Facebook, Zuckerberg claimed he wanted to err "on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible. ... We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties." The hard left, beginning with President Obama, wants to be that community, that supposedly disinterested third party. It is another step in the long march toward silence conservative thought in America.
Make no mistake about it: Fake news does exist. Everyone is used to false click-bait, like the recent "Megyn Kelly leaving Fox?" story floating around the internet, which claims she's leaving to promote some blah-blah-blah skin care product. Then there are the offshore fake news factories churning out "shocking" reports about Pope Francis backing Donald Trump.
Are these annoyances? Yes. Are they threats to Western civilization? Hardly.
The left saw an opening with talk of fake news and pounced. On the campaign trail, Obama said: "If they just repeat attacks enough, and outright lies over and over again, as long as it's on Facebook and people can see it, as long as it's on social media, people start believing it. And it creates this dust cloud of nonsense." It was an obvious slam of the Trump team.
If what Trump states is false, then to give it endless oxygen by writing story after story on it is to engage in fake news.
Fox News is mocked as Faux News by this camp. Obama told Rolling Stone that part of the problem is seeing "Fox News in every bar and restaurant in big chunks of the country," which is as inappropriate a complaint as it was exaggerated. He doubled down and praised the hippie hoaxmeisters of campus rape, saying: "Good journalism continues to this day. There's great work done in Rolling Stone."
Are the red flags for fake news only going to target stories that upset liberals? The leftist group Media Matters for America is claiming it will de-emphasize its Fox News obsession to focus instead on websites like Breitbart and the "alt-right" platforms in an effort to be that "trusted third party" to help run Facebook's algorithms.
Do you think they would ever call out leftist fake news outlets like, oh, themselves?
The networks have labored mightily to avoid videotapes demonstrating Planned Parenthood allegedly sold dead baby parts to fetal-tissue researchers. The left said those taped admissions are somehow faked, even after all the footage, which shows no such thing, was made available. Then there's hidden camera footage of Democratic operatives who discussed sending thugs in "Trump is a Nazi" T-shirts to agitate Trump supporters and "draw them out to punch (them)" in front of the cameras. Clearly that is fake news. Where are Obama and Media Matters when we need them?
If messing up and publishing or broadcasting false news ruins an entire outlet as fake news, then goodbye, mainstream media. ABC faked the sales of rancid meat at Food Lion. CBS offered unverified Texas Air National Guard memos against former President George W. Bush. NBC faked a pickup truck explosion. The Washington Post had Janet Cooke. The New York Times had Jayson Blair. CNN had Peter Arnett ... and Brian Williams, Brian Williams and Brian Williams.
Mark Zuckerberg really doesn't want to mess with this mess. It is censorship at its ugliest.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.