The knock against Facebook that is getting the most attention right now is that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the platform will not act as arbiters of truth and falsehood for political candidates’ posts and ads.
Current and former political candidates like Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have argued that it is irresponsible for the company to not be watchdogs for truth. For his part, Zuckerberg has said essentially that Facebook users are fully capable (through comments) of policing truth vs. fiction and that free speech, not censorship, should be paramount.
As the left’s attacks on Facebook get more hysterical – thanks to President Donald Trump’s smashing success in using the platform – critics are emerging seemingly everywhere, calling for increased accountability through government regulation, because the social media company has “too much power.”
Besides the politicians, a top corporate executive has also spoken out against Facebook’s unwillingness to target “fake news.” Laughably, that executive oversees credibility-challenged CNN.
John Stankey is President and COO of AT&T, and is also CEO of subsidiary WarnerMedia, which under its previous name Time Warner was acquired a couple of years ago by AT&T. CNN is under the WarnerMedia umbrella.
In a recent interview with Yahoo! Finance, Stankey expressed concern for the “concentration of economic power” with big web-based tech companies including Google, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook, and their responsibilities to the public they serve. Specifically he criticized Zuckerberg and Facebook for their stance on monitoring content, compared to what responsibilities to the public CNN has to the public:
I heard some comments the other day that Mark Zuckerberg made, that said he’s thinks he’s somewhere between a distribution company like a telephone company, and a media company, and therefore they should be handled differently. I kind of said, you know, “Why did editorial integrity show up in media companies? What came first?” Well, editorial integrity and editors arrived because people needed to make sure their source of information was in fact doing the ethical and fair reporting that we just talked about (with CNN).
So, I don’t think you can sit here and say well, “just because I’m not a media company, I shouldn’t need editors.” Because if that’s where people are consuming facts and information, if you’re aggregating and producing that to move out, then you probably need to think about what the editorial integrity of your platform is. I think we’re going to be into some interesting times in the coming months and years around how that evolves. And I do think it’s an area that we need to have a broader social and civic discussion around what we want as a society, and what’s productive for us.”
In other words, Stankey said because Facebook is in the business of presenting information to the public, they should have editors that oversee that process and verify accuracy.
It’s a worthwhile discussion and debate to have, but unfortunately Stankey is also blind to the shortcomings of his own news media outlet. In fact, he’s delusional.
Asked earlier in the interview about CNN, and the fact that it’s reporting, accuracy and liberal bias make it the target of President Donald Trump, Stankey acted like there’s nothing wrong.
“CNN’s doing great,” he said. “Jeff (Zucker, CNN’s president) and the team are doing a wonderful job.”
Stankey explained that it’s not CNN’s reporting and content quality that’s the problem; It’s Trump.
“I wouldn’t say that CNN per se is exclusively in the president’s crosshairs,” he said. “I would actually say that media that doesn’t subscribe to the president’s narrative is in the president’s crosshairs.”
It’s true that President Trump often calls out the “fake news media” over perceived slights, but also inaccurate reporting – even at his “favorite” news outlet (as the rest of the media likes to characterize it) Fox News – but CNN stands out as the biggest offender against the White House.
The examples of bias and inaccuracy are too many to count, but it’s not always about what each of the stories say, but which stories are reported and how they are presented. In the case of Trump, CNN’s narrative almost always is negative, with the fraudulent “Russian collusion” stories about his 2016 campaign and the drummed-up Ukraine impeachment charges the most noteworthy examples. And the cast of regular “expert” characters called upon in various panels and segments almost universally pan the administration – even the “conservatives” who participate are dominated by “NeverTrumpers.”
Specifics? Eighteen months ago The Daily Caller compiled a list of 20 examples of CNN’s “bungled reporting,” which included false reports about: former Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci being investigated by Congress for ties to Russia; Donald Trump Jr. receiving special access to Wikileaks documents; that former FBI director James Comey would contradict the president in congressional testimony; and that Republicans funded the Steele dossier upon which the FBI based its investigation into the president. The Scaramucci story led to the resignation of three CNN employees.
Breitbart’s John Nolte also featured much of CNN’s false reporting on Russiagate in a list of “51 Fake News Bombshells” he compiled last year. Of course, CNN’s blunders aren’t limited to Trump – incorrect reporting on police shootings of blacks in Ferguson, Mo. and in Milwaukee, as well as a report that rape is a pre-existing condition in a Republican health insurance bill, are other examples. And in January CNN settled a defamation lawsuit with Covington Catholic teen Nick Sandmann over false reports about his interaction with a Native American in Washington.
Yet Stankey is oblivious to CNN’s many faults.
“CNN and any other media should be in the role of telling the truth and reporting the facts, and I think we do a darn good job of that each and every day,” he said in the Yahoo! Interview. “And it’s a tough environment. It’s a tough environment ascertaining what in fact are the facts. And I would say it’s far more complicated than it ever has been ten years ago.
“And I’m proud of the way the CNN team works through that on a daily basis. The complicated environment we’re in makes it more difficult to be accurate each and every day.”
President Trump’s campaign last week filed a libel lawsuit against CNN over false reporting about Russian collusion allegations. Perhaps it will take a few more lawsuits like Sandmann’s and Trump’s before Stankey realizes the “editorial integrity” problem exists under his own authority, not Zuckerberg’s.
Of course, Facebook is not perfect. It enforces double standards that often result in the censorship of conservative speech. Moreover, the company still takes positions on controversial issues, like the so-called Equality Act, which undermine its claim that it is a neutral platform. But liberal bias is not enough for the Stankeys of the world. They want to completely shut out from public discourse anyone with whom they disagree.