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Living in an era where misinformation is weaponized

By Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency on

I’m not going to spend a lot of time analyzing the story itself. Suffice it to say, it is amateurish and poorly sourced. As to its trustworthiness, well, the paper says it received the emails on a duplicated hard drive from that fount of unimpeachable credibility, Rudy Giuliani. ‘Nuff said.

But as to the charges leveled by conservatives: No government agency has banned or intimidated the Post. All that happened is, two shareholder-owned companies declined to allow broad dissemination of a story they found dubious. That’s not censorship. It’s responsibility, belatedly accepted.

People have literally died, let us not forget, from U.S. social media’s willingness to be used as uncritical platforms for untruths. BuzzFeed, The Columbia Journalism Review and the New York Times have reported Facebook’s role in violent unrest from Libya to Germany to Myanmar. Which is a visceral argument that, if social media are going to supplant news media’s function, they darn well better accept news media’s obligation to vet what they put out.

Maybe this is a step in that direction. Either way, it is less troubling that social media restricted the story than that they had to, that we live in an era where misinformation is so readily weaponized. And that’s the real point.

“For all its pious moaning about censorship, the right wing is more upset about being held to a standard of verifiable truth because they know it’s one they cannot meet” is a sentence I’m pretty sure I can get away with.

 

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(Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

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