The Term "Fake News" Joins "Hate Speech" As A New Tool for Ideological Speech Suppresion

The term "hate speech" has become a useful tool for speech suppression, mostly from the Left side of the political aisle.  The reason it is such a dangerous term for free speech is that there is no useful definition of hate speech, meaning that in practice it often comes to mean, "confrontational speech that I disagree with."   I think most of us would agree that saying, "all black men should be lynched" is unambiguously hateful.  But what about saying something like "African Americans need to come to terms with the high rate of black on black violence."  Or even, "President Obama plays too much golf."   I would call both the latter statements opinions that, even if wrong, reasonably fit within the acceptable bounds of public discourse, but both have been called hate speech and racist.

The Left's new tool for speech suppression appears to be the term "fake news."  Certainly a news story that says, "American actually has 57 states" would be considered by most to be fake.  We understand (or most of us outside places like the New York Times, which still seems to get fooled) that sites like the Onion are fake.   But, as I suspected the very first time I heard the term, "fake news" also seems to be defined as "political sites with which I disagree."  Via Reason:

But Zimdars' list is awful. It includes not just fake or parody sites; it includes sites with heavily ideological slants like Breitbart,, Liberty Unyielding, and Red State. These are not "fake news" sites. They are blogs that—much like Reason—have a mix of opinion and news content designed to advance a particular point of view. Red State has linked to pieces from Reason on multiple occasions, and years ago I wrote a guest commentary for Breitbart attempting to make a conservative case to support gay marriage recognition....

Reporting on the alleged impact of fake news on the election is itself full of problems. BuzzFeed investigated how well the top "fake" election news stories performed on Facebook compared to the top "real" election news stories. The fake stories had more "engagement" on Facebook than stories from mainstream media outlets. There's basic problems with this comparison—engagement doesn't mean that people read the stories or even believed them (I know anecdotally that when a fake news story shows up in my feed, the "engagement" is often people pointing out that the story is fake).

There's also a problem when you look at the top stories from mainstream media outlets—they tend toward ideologically supported opinion pieces as well. Tim Carney over at The Washington Examinernoted that two of the top three stories are essentially opinion pieces:

Here's the top "Real News" stories: "Trump's history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?" As the headline suggests, this is a liberal opinion piece, complaining that the media doesn't report enough on Trump's scandals.

No. 2 is "Stop Pretending You Don't Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton." This is a rambling screed claiming that people only dislike Clinton because she is a woman.

So in an environment where "fake news" is policed by third parties that rely on expert analysis, we could see ideologically driven posts from outlets censored entirely because they're lesser known or smaller, while larger news sites get a pass on spreading heavily ideological opinion pieces. So a decision by Facebook to censor "fake news" would heavily weigh in favor of the more mainstream and "powerful" traditional media outlets.

The lack of having a voice in the media is what caused smaller online ideology-based sites to crop up in the first place. Feldman noted that he's already removed some sites that he believes have been included "unfairly" in Zimdars' list. His extension also doesn't block access to any sites in any event. It just produces a pop-up warning.

Tellingly, in a quick scan of the sites, I don't see any major sites of the Left, while I see many from the Right (though Zero Hedge is on the list and writes from both the Left and the Right).   Daily Kos anyone?  There are conspiracy sites on the list but none that I see peddle conspiracies (e.g. 9/11 trutherism) of the Left.

This is yet another effort to impose ideological censorship but make it feel like it is following some sort of neutral criteria.


  1. Jim Collins:

    So the Huffington Post has to go.

  2. SamWah:

    Are you telling me that leftist sites LIE? Hmmmm; yes, I've known that a long time.

  3. SamWah:

    I say, Yup!

  4. Pat Slattery:

    FREE speech means that you have to put up with bulls**t sometimes. Sometimes it's an opinion you don't agree with, sometimes it's an outright fabrication. Sometimes it's someone trying to be funny. It seems the right understands this better than the left. I can't imagine someone coming up with a list that didn't lean heavily toward silencing the right. On my Facebook feed I see memes all the time from my Democrat friends (who I'd never consider unfriending because they differ with my libertarian views) from a site called OccupyDemocrats that are generally so full of falsehoods that I can barely scroll past them fast enough. But I scroll... The left seems to rely on the old argument, "shut up".

  5. Ruggerbunny:

    Just read a pretty good article addressing the falsehoods of the left leaning media:

  6. Ray Wylie Hubbub:

    Viewpoint discrimination is the left's favorite hammer.

  7. J_W_W:

    The progressive mask has been dropped, the full on push for fascism is here.

  8. JTW:

    And the New York Times, which even admitted to having fabricated stories to support Hitlery...

    But of course google and fartbook will only consider things "fake" that go counter to the far left political agenda of their top executives, all of whom are beholden to the fascisto-communist wing of the self-proclaimed "democratic" party.

  9. Zachriel:

    Whenever a new media is invented, it will have inordinate power until people learn to compensate. Radio was used very effectively by Hitler, Churchill, and Roosevelt to rally their respective nations. The War of the Worlds radio scare is legendary. Television revealed its power with the McCarthy hearings, the Kennedy-Nixon debate, and “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should”. Talk radio was integral to the rise of right-wing populism. Cable led to rage-TV, such as Fox News. Today, fake news feeds on Facebook and political attacks on Twitter have allowed the capture of the American electorate by Macedonia teenagers, Russian hackers, and Donald Trump.

    Good luck with that!

  10. Zachriel:

    Turns out that complaining about fake news is protected by the First Amendment.

  11. J_W_W:

    Yeah, but blocking fake news isn't.

  12. Q46:

    " useful definition of hate speech, meaning that in practice it often
    comes to mean, "confrontational speech that I disagree with."

    I think you may be mistaken. Hate speech is defined by certain words on a growing list. You yourself have illustrated that nicely with, ""all black men should be lynched"- replace 'black' with say, politicians, people who double-park or more topically Trump supporters. Would the phrase then be 'unambiguously hateful'?

    You see the rot is deeper than you think.

    Is there really no difference between hatred and dislike or disgust?

    And something need not be confrontational, it could be said as a joke or perhaps out of frustration or just clumsy phrasing... context does not matter, it is the actual proscribed word that convicts of hate crime.

  13. ErikTheRed:

    Funny - I had read that also and was just going to post it here. I've been kind of hesitant to share it because as annoying as the left is in this area it is kinda fun watching them self-destruct and this information getting out there would get in the way of that. Well, I suppose they'd have to swallow some pride first so maybe it's not all that dangerous.

  14. CC:

    Almost every news item about Trump was fake news. Even news that is not about a controversial topics is often sloppy or uninformed. caveat emptor
    Zuckerberg just made a statement coming down on the side of Facebook being a "safe space" rather than a free speech zone. Oh boy.

  15. Mercury:

    Ain't much liberty left in the 'Liberals', and there ain't much left for the 'Conservatives' left to conserve.

    That's the real truth.

  16. DaveK:

    Well, you do realize that allowing free speech makes it so very much harder to control the peasants.

  17. Rewired actuary:

    How's this for fake news: Hands up, don't shoot?

  18. Rewired actuary:

    I understand that all Huffington Post content will have to be approved by Steve Bannon, starting 1.20.2017, per Prez Trump's EO #1.

  19. SamWah:

    How'd you get off Maggie's Farm?

  20. Zachriel:

    Yes. Actually, it is. Publishers have a right to edit their content.

  21. sch:

    So where does the ?/response: [what do you call 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? a good start! ]
    fall on the hate speech spectrum?

  22. J_W_W:

    And we have a right to abandon them if they edit their content to fit a political narrative.

    And i still stand by my statement. The lefties demanding fact checking (i.e. does it fit our narrative) are Fascists.... and free speech demands they be called out as such.

  23. mx:

    Color me unpersuaded by an article that handwaves away a call to ban 1.6 billion people from the country on the basis of their religion as "cognitive bias that makes you unreasonably afraid." That's a fine label to apply to someone who scores high on some ridiculous "implicit bias test" or who crosses the street because they don't like the looks of someone approaching them on the sidewalk. But it's an awful label to apply to someone who deliberately issued a statement to the press and read it aloud at several rallies, not out of some sudden instinctive fear, but through a normal decision-making process. And it's an even worse label for someone who will soon lead the nation and therefore must not be so "unreasonably afraid" all the time.

  24. Samantha Atkins:

    The Left's tool? Oh noes. The Right will use it to suppress critical comment on Trump and team. All power lusters who would wish to silence critics will use it. It is not an invention of the "Left" per se. BTW "Left" and "Right" are such loose meaning clouds that we should eschew them from rational discussion.

  25. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    Who, exactly, gets to decide which words are to be proscribed? How about we just don't proscribe any of them and continue with free speech.

  26. Zachriel:

    J_W_W: And we have a right to abandon them if they edit their content to fit a political narrative.


    J_W_W: And i still stand by my statement. The lefties demanding fact checking (i.e. does it fit our narrative) are Fascists

    You obviously know little of Fascism as a ideology.

    Fascism /ˈfæʃɪzəm/ is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe, influenced by national syndicalism. Fascism originated in Italy during World War I and spread to other European countries. Fascism opposes liberalism, Marxism and anarchism and is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.

    The First Amendment protects the right of publishers to determine the content of their own publications.

  27. J_W_W:

    Ah, the old lefty canard that fascism is a "right wing" thing.....

    The Nazis called themselves socialists.....

  28. Zachriel:

    J_W_W: Ah, the old lefty canard that fascism is a "right wing" thing

    Fascism has been considered a movement of the political right since WWII by both scholars and laypersons. The term is still applied to newer forms of authoritarian nationalism, such as neo-Fascism, and those groups are still considered to be on the political right.

    In any case, that wasn't the point. Speaking out publicly for fact-checking is in no way fascism. It's not even authoritarian, unless accompanied by a call for state censorship.

  29. J_W_W:

    C'mon you know that the left thinks the best way to police facts would be to have a government agency do it. See for an example their blathering love of the FCC and the FEC.

  30. Zachriel:

    In other words, you're just making stuff up.

  31. J_W_W:

    In other words your so blinded by your belief that the left is "on the right side of history" that you just ignore their attacks on free speech and expression.

    Oh and if you think the left doesn't use government organizations to stifle free speech you can look up the "fairness doctrine".

    Oddly enough the fairness doctrine espoused many of the same goals the "stop fake news" crowd is spouting off about....

  32. Zachriel:

    J_W_W: you just ignore their attacks on free speech and expression.

    Speaking up about the problem of fake news isn't an attack on free speech, but IS free speech.

  33. Zachriel:

    Pat Slattery: I see memes all the time from my Democrat friends (who I'd never consider unfriending because they differ with my libertarian views) from a site called OccupyDemocrats that are generally so full of falsehoods

    Can you provide an example or two?

  34. SamWah:

    THEM, not YOU.

  35. J_W_W:

    Sure talking about fake news is free speech. Doing anything to censor fake news is censorship.

  36. SamWah:

    1st para: Yes, but that doesn't mean the accusers are correct.

  37. obloodyhell:

    Just look at the OD site/page. They're drooling pre-diabetic KoolAid drinkers

  38. obloodyhell:

    Does ultra partisan hypocrisy like Slate's 11/11/12 piece in support of the Electoral College vs. their 11/12/16 piece about how the Electoral College is 'racist, sexist, and oppressive' count the latter as Faux News?

    (P.S. we need to use this to reappropriate the Faux News meme from the Left)

  39. obloodyhell:

    The fact that the Left has been selling that bovine excreta for 70 years does not change the fact that socialism is a left meme and "Nazi" **means** "National Socialist".

  40. Zachriel:

    The current headline is "Trump Said Pence Was Harassed At The Theater. This Hamilton Actor’s Response Is So Classy". The first sentence is a factual statement. The second is opinion. What is the falsehood?

  41. Zachriel:

    : Sure talking about fake news is free speech.

    More particularly, criticizing fake news is free speech. Forums have a right to censor what is published on their forum, and be criticized in turn.

  42. J_W_W:

    But blocking people from seeing it and making judgments themselves is still censorship.

    i.e. the communist manifesto is complete bullshit drivel that has destroyed more lives than anything else in history. Yet I'd still let people read it and decide for themselves before banning it as "a fake concept of human governance" which is what it actually is...

  43. mx:

    The President-elect seems to be in favor of "safe spaces" now too, at least for politicians, so god help us all.

  44. Alby Dürer:

    Here's an example for you, Zach: "Jeff Sessions isn't just a proud racist -- he's also a misogynist rape enabler."

    Sessions fought to desegregate schools in Alabama. He prosecuted the head of the Alabama KKK for murder and insisted on the death penalty for him (Henry Francis Hays), which he later enforced as state AG. His prosecution of Hays bankrupted the KKK in Alabama via a $7 million civil court judgment.

    So the man who destroyed the KKK in his state is deemed "a proud racist" by OD, which is demonstrably false. Possibly OD could pretend that Sessions is secretly a closet racist, but how does the term "proud racist" comport with your notion of "fair" or "opinion v. news"?

    I have to agree with Pat Slattery- the OD is an emotional lefty propaganda site designed to inflame and motivate those who are poor at critical reasoning.

  45. FelineCannonball:

    Is this a "there is no objective truth" argument?

    Because it seems pretty easy to loosely classify stuff as news, weather, sports, science coverage, partisan perspectives, agitprop, opinion, etc. You don't have to give The Onion, "sky is down" stuff, or un-sourced conspiracy stuff the same billing as the weather. Ultimately up to the private company (Facebook, Google, etc.) doing the aggregation but I find it easier to not have it all jumbled up in one feed.

  46. Not Sure:

    That's the all-purpose answer to just about everything. And if you have to ask who "THEM" are, it's not "YOU".

  47. mesaeconoguy:

    The ultimate problem is the death of critical thinking and reasoning of the public, thanks to leftist-run indoctrination centers mistakenly labeled “schools.”

    Leftist-run media has been fake for years, but it is particularly Orwellian watching leftists insist that their version of events is correct, when it is clearly wrong.

  48. Zachriel:

    Has anyone called for legally banning fake news? Or are they just complaining about it to the publishers, such as FaceBook?

  49. Zachriel:

    Alby Dürer: Here's an example for you, Zach: "Jeff Sessions isn't just a proud racist -- he's also a misogynist rape enabler."

    Sessions defended sexual assault when he defended Trump's bragging about grabbing pu$$y, because as a star you can get away with it. A Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary found sufficient evidence of racism to deny him an appointment to the federal court. We prefer to believe that Sessions' views on race have softened over the years, but his statements on sexual assault are recent.

    In any case, it clearly reads as an opinion piece, and the point is arguable, and not an example of a factual falsehood.

  50. CC:

    there are calls for Facebook & Twitter etc to censor (they call it something else) fake news.