How We Ended Up Here: A Brief History Of "Fake News", And The Role Of FaceBook

Tyler Durden's picture

With major media outlets having launched their campaign against fake news, which can be seen in in action in the screengrab below in which ABC News is disputing a news item...

... we wanted to share with our readers an insightful "tweetstorm" by Matt Stoller who goes through the history of not only the so-called "fake news" phenomenon, which is nothing new, but the recent evolution of the "news" business model, to observe how we ended up with Facebook effectively dictating what is and isn't news.

By Matt Stoller:

Fake news was a core concern of New Dealer media reformers. This is part of a statement I found in the Patman archives.

Newspapers owned by reactionary publishers constantly made things up about New Dealers. Like that Congressman didn't pay taxes.

Patman's particular newspaper was called the Paris News. It was, as he put it, 'absentee owned'. This is a core concept.

Absentee ownership meant that the owners didn't pay attention to how their institutions affected people where those owners didn't live.

It didn't matter to a New York news magnate whether info put out by his chain about Paris, TX was true. He didn't live there.

The basic idea behind media and telecom reforms was to keep institutions local, and keep them decentralized.

Multiple structural barriers were organized to preserve truth. Newspaper unions, for one, fought publishers over editorial independence

A diversity of news sources, like union newspapers and newspapers in lots of languages, was another.

The Communications Act of 1934 was a key law to block control of our telephone system by AT&T.

Victor Pickard's ( @VWPickard) book goes into fights at the FCC in the 1940s over the structure of radio and TV (link)

All of these fights created a structure of New Deal news that people think of as objective.

Nostalgia, like 'remember when Walter Cronkite told the truth?' When America was unified. But this was b/c of earlier political fights.

The 1930s to 1970s news industry was structured to avoid fake news. It wasn't totally successful. But some of the protections held.

There were other protections for media more broadly, like fin-syn rules for TV and the antitrust suit against the studios.

There were lots of newspapers for different communities, including ones that were key to the Civil Rights movement.

Fast forward to the 1980s and 1990s. Media consolidation, deregulation, attacks on newspaper unions.

Fox News and Rush Limbaugh emerge out of changes in regulatory policy by Reagan and Clinton. Financiers begin newspaper roll-ups.

Newspapers begin falling apart, though the financials don't reflect it yet. 1990s media landscape is insane with conspiracy theories.

In the mid-2000s, Google and Facebook begin their march to monopolizing the ad networks. Google buys Doubleclick.

As corrupted as news has become, it still exists, somewhat. But the platform monopolists begin chewing up all their revenue.

And the greatest absentee owned editor imaginable appears: The Algorithm

The Algorithm is scalable, automated, and seems totally value-neutral. Right? It delivers everything everyone wants.

Facebook and Google slowly become the editor for the planet through The Algorithm. New media outlets live and die by The Algorithm.

But odd problems start cropping up. Facebook's The Algorithm censors Pulitzer Prize winning Vietnam era photo from Norwegian news.

Turns out Facebook is misleading on traffic numbers for major news sites.

Optimization, aka gaming The Algorithm, becomes an industry. This opens the way for modern fake news.

Completely made up, riding on The Algorithm, perhaps foreign propaganda, crops up like barnacles on the bottom of a boat.

This is a function of the centralization of power in the hands of The Algorithm, aka Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page.

No matter how competent, no one person can be the editor for all of humanity. The Algorithm is the mother of all absentee ownership.

The response to the 'fake news' panic has been authoritarian. It has been 'why won't Facebook censor things I don't like!?!'

So Facebook announces it will censor. And it may engage in "policy enforcement actions" to cut off $$$ to media (link)

FB acts as a sovereign power unto itself. It outsources censorship to sites like Politifact, a site with clear policy biases.

Hoping that if it does this outsourcing, people won't notice FB's total control over our free speech commons via The Algorithm.

But fundamentally, such control is not consistent with a democracy, with a free press, or with freedom of association.

There are many policy approaches to this problem. But it is not a problem of 'fake news', it is a problem of concentrated monopoly power

Fake news is simply the barnacles that aren't being cleaned out of the system b/c Mark Zuckerberg can't get to them all.

It's worse today, but this is a longstanding issue. Fourteen years ago, it was fake news around the war in Iraq.

What we need to restore democracy is a wholesale anti-monopoly approach to our media ecosystem, starting but not ending w/ the platforms

Communities must have the ability to organize their own public commons for debate and speech, unmediated by private monopolies.

Otherwise, we will not be dealing just with Fake News, but with a Fake Democracy as well. There, that's my tweet storm.

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bobbbny's picture

In ten years you won't remember Facebook.

Yes We Can. But Lets Not.'s picture

Let's call it what it is:



There is an entreprenurial here, with the corruption of facebook by Zuckerberg, to trump it with or call it whatever.

underman's picture

Stop watching television and delete your facebook page.  Fixed.

Cruel Joke's picture

Ann Coulter tweeted:

George Soros will be a big donor in supporting Facebook's fact checking. A fact Facebook forgot to mention. FLAG!

Turbo_diesel's picture

RT America is actually pretty decent if you want to watch news on TV. Real Truth is the new russian propaganda.

Skiprrrdog's picture

Six years ago. And I told my wife I will divorce her if she EVER puts a picture of me on her FeceBook page again..

Laddie's picture

Well that MAY be true but Mr Zuckerberg is a powerful individual and part of an even MORE POWERFUL group.

What the Deep State calls "Fake news" is just the TRUTH but the GOVERNMENT is using genuine FAKE NEWS, possibly, to TOPPLE President-elect TRUMP!!!!

FBI Supports Kooky CIA Conspiracy Against Trump

It is hard to believe that all of these people would be attacking Trump in support of this nonsensical fake news hoax if they believed he’s going to take over and fire or perhaps even have them investigated for treason.

So the logical conclusion here, based on the information we have available, is that a lot of people in the FBI/CIA do not believe Trump is going to be President.

There will be resistance.

I can tell you that much.

But here’s the deal: be ready.

Get your canned goods, get your ammo, get your gold.

The chances are still relatively low, by my analysis – which is basically just a guess.

But the threat is there.

It is there.

And we aren’t going down without a fight.

No no.

We ride for the Emperor.

RTP's picture

First  of all Mark Zuckerberg is a Jew and serves only the Tribe to gather informations of all members of this modern church. Its a Jackpot church. All pay in and only one tribe profits from it. Make no mistake...Islam is just another form of Judaism. Radical Islam is just bought ...a tool against the free speech and to take down any Nation who is in resistance against this fake almighty god created by the Jews.

vulcanraven's picture

Facebook is pointless and it adds nothing of value to your life. It has degenerated into a wall of noise and bullshit virtue signaling progressive idiots posting quotes, inspirational memes, and photographs in an attempt to window dress their pathetic lives.

Turbo_diesel's picture

IMO FB was net positive circa 2007 but as the unwashed masses started joining, it became the new myspace and the noise was drowning out any signal by 2010.

Nexus789's picture

It's a cesspit of frivolous narcissistic rubbish. A really crap use of great invention - the Internet. 

ich1baN's picture

Facebook is arleady censoring private messages.... YES, PRIVATE MESSAGES. Try to send this youtube video about Joe Biden's public molestations..... an error will come up that says "This message failed to send, click to send again" 

At 4:06 he says "By the way... do you want to know how horny I am to have a 13 year old standing near me? Talk to my daughter Ashley about the film (laughter) you're a good looking girl.... [thank you]"

At 10:07 he says "I like kids better than people".... #Pizzagate

We are much closer to 1984 than we'd like to admit. 

debtor of last resort's picture

The average guy has nothing to spend but his privacy.

Parrotile's picture

On the subject of "Fake News" - today's "Front Page Item" on (Aussie) Sky News -


Seems the "First Family" is certainly NOT going to fade away quietly, but it pays to remember who owns Sky News, and who all his well-connected chums are . . . . .

Uzda Farce's picture
Uzda Farce (not verified) Dec 17, 2016 6:29 PM

"With these CIA/DARPA connections, it’s no surprise that Jim Breyer’s jackpot investment in Facebook is not part of the popular mythology of Mark Zuckerberg. Better to omit it. Who could fail to realize that Facebook, with its endless stream of personal data, and its tracking capability, is an ideal CIA asset?"

Facebook and Google are corporate sponsors of the Rockefeller/CFR. Sheryl Sandberg and Eric Schmidt are CFR members. See member lists at cfr dot org.

NOZZLE's picture

Congress Declaring that FakebookBERG is a common carrier ends the Undershirts attempt at fascism 

NobodyNowhere's picture

Just sick of bergs, steins, witz, sachs, and all the evil they forment

Rich from PDT's picture

We're here because the average American "adult" is a fat retard that lives his/her life as a perpetual teenager.

"No Cucks, No Faggots, No Weak White Men."

besnook's picture

one of the things that really galls me about the russian fake news crap is no one dared criticize nutandyahoo(except pat buchanan) when he brazenly attempted to affect the last two elections because he hated the svazta(sp) in the white house so much.

besnook's picture

the internet should be as free as the radiowaves allowing anyone with a vehicle to get on. in fact, has someone figured out how to "broadcast" the internet over radiowaves

besnook's picture

no. i am talking about sending a signal that can be tuned into by people with computers who want to access a specific channel of internet. in other words the internet is the isp so there can be several internets, like the tor competes with the www, and computers are receivers and transmitters like radio. that would make the reception of the signal free to the user, like radio or a minimal user fee like cable tv.


johnnycanuck's picture

The very concept of Facebook is anti humanity as it was known for thousands of years.

Even in my time and I'm not so old that my body was preserved by ancient Egyptians.


What you do every moment of every day isn't that important. Really. Seriously it isn't. Personally I don't want to know what you do every waking moment because for starters, it's none of my business and end of day you shouldn't think it is.

That said, if you are really in  real trouble, then you should let people know so they can reach out to help. That sort of thing is what a democratic society is supposed to be about.

The measure of the success of  a Democratic society is how it treats the most vulnerable, and that isn't restricted to the homeland,

847328_3527's picture

Maybe some people need to advertise on FB, but for the average person, it's best to avoid it altogether. There's little advatnage to it. Other platforms may be safer and offer more privacy.

Stormtrooper's picture

I registered with Facebook once and took a look at it.  Looked like fake news so I've never been back.

Urban Redneck's picture

Never signed up for Facebook, but my wife used it.  

And for YEARS she would occasionally come to me win tinfoil moonbat fake news like- the world's going to end!, massive solar storm next month!, terroist attack tomorrow!

Come to think of it, my wife sounds like some the tinfoil moonbats I come across here.  Now I know where some of you get your "information" (fake news)


They can't even get the most basic facts correct like whether (or not) Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America on November 8, 2016... Hint Trump was not, the only correct way of phrasing that notion in English is that he was elected president-elect on Nov 8, as the electoral college vote on Monday supercedes the popular vote, so we could theoretically have (in the wildest wet dreams of the SJWs) have a different president-elect by Tuesday, and only if the Congress accepts the electoral college outcome does Donald Trump automatically become President of the United States at noon on January 20, regardless of whether he actually takes any oath of office or even leaves Trump tower to travel to DC.



elmo jones's picture

Got reason for SpaceX explosion from SpaceX employee today. Liquid Oxygen in fuellines went heated out of liquid state and friction SPARKED explosion. Kind of like burning a roast. Or getting rid of evidence of a failed FB payload to save face.

Publicus_Reanimated's picture

What if I told Facebook I didn't want a "fake news" filter?  Do you think they would let me have a news feed based on real life numbers?  No, I didn't think so.  You get their filtered news or you get NOTHING.

How long do you think this will take to spread beyond Facebook?  Be very, very afraid. 

uhland62's picture

Just don't go on facebook; there's no law you must and when it comes to news there's plenty out there that keeps you informed. I have never been on facebook and will never sign up.

If people cannot delete their account, just put a last post on it that you will no longer keep it updated because you lost interest. Don't log in any more, let people scribble what they like. Nobody is obliged to have such an account or log in. 

CoCosAB's picture

I've seen people suggesting people to delete their facistbook account!

It's a NO WIN!


Facistbook users are mentally handicapped people... They love the drug, and now that Facistbook gives them the POWER to censor other mentally handicapped slaves, is't even better.


So there is NO CHANCE slaves are going to delete their accounts.

In fact I'm waiting to see the info about some mentally handicapped that created a facistbook page in order to tell facistbook to stop this type of action... And asking for 'Likes'!


Dumb brain dead slaves, can't do much better than this!

Neochrome's picture

Account deleted, problem solved.




Rubicon727's picture

"What we need to restore democracy is a wholesale anti-monopoly approach to our media ecosystem, starting but not ending w/ the platforms

Communities must have the ability to organize their own public commons for debate and speech, unmediated by private monopolies."


It would be far easier to simply set up an independent server in a nation that is NOT beholding to ANY Western nation. Savvy Europeans have already recognized this and are acting accordingly.

Fathead Slim's picture
Fathead Slim (not verified) Dec 18, 2016 12:35 AM

Facebook can do as the owners please with their property. Users can do as they please with their time and move on from facebook. That's the way it is with private property.

Stanelli's picture

As for the 'fake news', here's what CNN has been doing when the USA went for their joy ride in the Middle East.

Have a look and try to recall those 'good old times' of fake news posing as 'the real news' and decide for yourself.

Elco the Constitutionalist's picture
Elco the Constitutionalist (not verified) Dec 18, 2016 3:55 AM

Facebook is going to rue the fucking day. Or maybe they won't, after all, they already got theirs. But it is a matter of time before it is replaced.

LA_Goldbug's picture

Here it comes,

"the history of not only the so-called "fake news" phenomenon"

there will soon be a PhD, Ms and BS degree classes to study and research the ""fake news" phenomenon". Should be interesting what will be the "Fake News" 101 covered topics.

thebigunit's picture

The "fake news" classes will be taught by leftist college professors and will only cover fake news that happened during the Reagan and Bush administrations.

roadhazard's picture

fake news has always been here. 

moneybots's picture

"With major media outlets having launched their campaign against fake newsWith major media outlets having launched their campaign against fake news..."


Major media outlets have not launched a campaign against Fake News, as they are still producing Fake News.

thebigunit's picture

"Fake news" isn't a complete description of the problem.

The deceit of the dominint media doesn't come exclusively from their reporting distortions or things that didn't happen.  Much of it comes from their NON-REPORTING of things that they know and choose to suppress.

Exhibit A: Newsweek's suppression of Bill Clinton's horn doggery with Monica Lewinsky;

Exhibit B: EmailGate

Exhibit C: Benghazi

Exhibit D: Hillary's health problems

Exhibit E though infinity: etc, etc. etc.

thebigunit's picture

Speaking of "fake news". whole history books have been written using fake news, and these books are used in our education system:

A People's History of the United States

by Howard Zinn