The Pentagon is using a moral panic over “fake news” to gain influence over the domestic news landscape
By Matt Taibbi
September 11, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - If there’s a worse idea than the Pentagon becoming Editor-in-Chief of America, I can’t remember it. But we’re getting there:
From Bloomberg over Labor Day weekend:
Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections.
One of the Pentagon’s most secretive agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing “custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips.”
Once upon a time, when progressives still reflexively distrusted the military, DARPA was a liberal punchline, known for helping invent the Internet but also for developing lunatic privacy-invading projects like LifeLog, a program to “gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees, or does.”
DARPA now is developing a semantic analysis program called “SemaFor” and an image analysis program called “MediFor,” ostensibly designed to prevent the use of fake images or text. The idea would be to develop these technologies to help private Internet providers sift through content.
It’s the latest in a string of stories about new methods of control over information flow that should, but for some reason do not, horrify every working journalist.
From the Senate dragging Internet providers to the Hill to demand strategies against the sowing of “discord,” to tales of hundreds of Facebook sites zapped for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” following advice by government-connected groups like the Atlantic Council, it’s been clear the future of the information landscape is going to involve elaborate new forms of algorithmic regulation.
Stories about the need for such technologies are always couched as responses to the “fake news” problem. Unfortunately, “fake news” is a poorly-defined, amorphous concept that the public has been trained to fear without really understanding.
The term surged into public view three years ago. Experts insisted Macedonian troll farms and pranksters like the late Paul Horner (who once conned Fox News into doing a story that Barack Obama was funding a Muslim culture museum) had an enormous impact on Trump’s victory.
Had they? When “fake news” first became “a thing,” as media critic Adam Johnson put it in The Nation three years ago, I was skeptical.
Fake news has a long history in America. Its most pernicious incarnation is never the work of small-time scam artists. The worst “fake news” almost always involves broad-scale deceptions foisted on the public by official (and often unnamed) sources, in conjunction with oligopolistic media companies, usually in service of rallying the public behind a dubious policy objective like a war or authoritarian crackdown.
From the sinking of the Maine in 1898, to rumors of a union-led socialist insurrection before the Palmer raids in 1919, to the Missile Gap in the late fifties and early sixties (here is the CIA’s own website admitting that one was “erroneous”), to the Gulf of Tonkin lie that launched the Vietnam War, to the more recent WMD fiasco, true “fake news” is a concerted, organized, institutional phenomenon that involves deceptions cooked up at the highest levels.
Are You Tired Of The Lies And Non-Stop Propaganda?