February Thoughts on forming the Ministry of Truth

Folks, if you want to see what’s likely on tap for your digital future, then one country to watch is Australia. Australia is doing many things differently than we are, but many of the tech companies in the United States are wanting to see their policies adopted here.

First, in Australia, Microsoft and Google are in a fight about a proposed policy that directly affects online news articles.

February 11, 2021

Australia is currently in the process of passing regulation which would force Google and Facebook to pay publishers for linking to their news articles, a controversial proposal which appears to go against the whole ethos of the web, which is in the end all about linking to pages for free. Importantly Australia would not allow Google to avoid paying the newspapers by simple delisting them from their index.

Microsoft says the controversial Australian link tax should come to USA, explains why

In the blog post, Smith explains the 4th Estate is a very important element in democracy, and that the weakness of news organizations and the strength of social media is what resulted in Donald Trump being able to convince tens of millions of Americans that he won the election he actually lost.

“It was far from unusual for a losing candidate to request a recount or take a dispute to court – both parts of the democratic process,” Smith noted, “But, this year, even after losing more than 50 lawsuits in a row, President Trump waged a sustained campaign that successfully persuaded tens of millions of his supporters that the election was rigged. Without this sustained disinformation barrage, it’s hard to imagine that January 6 would have become such a tragic day.”

Smith notes that while Google and Facebook has generated billions in revenue from aggregating news,  since 2000, newsroom revenue in the United States has fallen by 70% and employment has been cut in half. More than 2,000 newspapers have closed entirely. In many places, local news has been decimated.  The majority now got their news (and disinformation) from social media, often only reading the headlines and not even clicking through to the news website.

Microsoft notes that news publications have been powerless to fight back, due to the monopoly position of Google and Facebook, but that Microsoft has always supported paying publishers for news and that they are well prepared to do this on a large scale if they gain market share.

February 15, 2021

Microsoft has turned into one of the most ardent advocates for the proposed Australian media code, which would see Google and Facebook pay news publications a share of their profits.

The proposal has been called a link tax which would break the internet, but Microsoft insists funding newspapers is important for the health of democracy and fighting fake news.

Microsoft offers myth-busting FAQ on anti-Google Australian news tax

Conceptually it is easier to think of the proposal as a tax on Google and Facebook, similar to the TV License in UK, where TV owners have to pay a £157.50 tax per year to support public access TV and news. In this case, the tax is being directed to trillion-dollar companies rather than the citizens of the country, and the benefit would be spread wider than simply the state publisher.

The FAQ does not address concerns that the proposal would fund newspapers which are equally involved in spreading fake news as Moldovian content farms and that it would place the power to decide which news outlet succeeds or fails in the hand of the government rather than the market.

February 17, 2021

In response to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook today announced that it will block publishers and users in Australia from sharing or viewing news content. This is applicable for both Australian and international news content. The proposed law will force platform providers like Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for using their content. To continue operating Google search in Australia, Google today signed an agreement with News Corporation for sharing the revenue obtained through news content. However, Facebook refused to sign any such deal citing the below reasons.

Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing news content
FAANG is Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google

Second, Australia is putting together a coalition of corporations to fight fake news.

February 22, 2021

Microsoft today announced that it is partnering with Adobe, Arm, BBC, Intel and Truepic to form the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA). C2PA is a Joint Development Foundation project formed to address the prevalence of disinformation, misinformation and online content fraud through developing technical standards for certifying the source and history or provenance of media content.

Microsoft partners with Adobe, BBC and others to battle against disinformation

“There’s a critical need to address widespread deception in online content — now supercharged by advances in AI and graphics and diffused rapidly via the internet. Our imperative as researchers and technologists is to create and refine technical and sociotechnical approaches to this grand challenge of our time. We’re excited about methods for certifying the origin and provenance of online content. It’s an honor to work alongside Adobe, BBC and other C2PA members to take this critical work to the next step,” said Eric Horvitz, Chief Scientific Officer and Project Origin executive sponsor, Microsoft.

The major technology companies and social networks in Austalia have signed up for the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation, a voluntary code of practice by the Digital Industry Group Inc (DiGi), a non-profit industry association advocating for the digital industry in Australia.

Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter sign up for Australian misinformation code

The code has 7 key principles:

  • Protection of freedom of expression:
  • Protection of user privacy:
  • Policies and processes concerning advertising placements:
  • Empowering users:
  • Integrity and security of services and products:
  • Supporting independent researchers:
  • Without prejudice commitments:

The policy was developed at the request of the Australian government and will be reviewed in 12 months.  Companies involved are required to have a working complaints procedure in place within 6 months. The code excludes private messaging services, email services, and enterprise services. Notably, it also excludes content authorised by an Australian state or federal government; political advertising or content authorised by a political party registered under Australian law.

Folks, please read the links of these stories if you want more information.

What you are beginning to see is that Big Tech is setting themselves up as the arbitrators of all truth. While some of the things mentioned above, sound good and perhaps even noble, the bottom line is that tech companies are deciding what information that you can or cannot access. Microsoft has kept a lower profile than other companies, but they are right there with the FAANG companies and Twitter.

Fake News

Before I go further, it will be helpful to note that the concept of fake news is not monolithic. There are several different types of fake news. Here are a few examples:

Microsoft often talks about the potential for fake news using digital manipulation. Think the movie Looker (1981) or Carrie Fisher being digitally added to Star Wars after her death. What if a video of a politician was faked for the purposes of fomenting rebellion or aiding the point of view of a media outlet hating said politician? Wouldn’t that be bad? In theory yes, unless its Donald Trump.

Click on link for video

But Microsoft is envisioning a video technology or capability that is even more manipulated than that of Trump or Carrie Fisher. What if we entered an era when no one would trust what they see? We are a very visual society, if people don’t see something, it is not real to them but what if someone took advantage of that?

Another type of fake news is the good ‘ole Dan Rather using Microsoft Word kind. For those too young to remember, Dan Rather faked a memo about then President George W. Bush in an effort to influence the 2004 Presidential election.

Dan Rather CBS news

“Rathergate” is the derisive term applied to a set of four documents allegedly written by the former commanding officer of President George W. Bush in the early 1970s, and broadcast on the CBS program 60 Minutes Wednesday, September 8, 2004. The resultant exposure of these documents as forgeries, coupled with a lack of proper news investigating techniques, led to the ouster of four senior producers at CBS several months later, as well as the departure of long-time anchorman Dan Rather, for whom the scandal was named. Because of this, the event was also infamous for coining the phrase “fake but accurate”, referring to Fake news.

Rathergate

See also:

The Truth About Dan Rather’s Deceptive Reporting on George W. Bush

Dan Rather Should Shut Up about Memos

Sometimes fake news is just a refusal/denial to acknowledge something is true because it might be perceived as either hurting the side you support or benefitting someone that you disagree with. Instead of “We report, you decide” becomes “We decide, then report”. Or as Steve Taylor sang in Meat the Press (1983):

When the godless chair the judgment seat

We can thank the godless media elite

They can silence those who fall from their grace

With a note that says “we haven’t the space”

So fake news is sometimes the sin of commission or conversely the sin of omission; both are equally fatal for the person trying to make an informed decision. As I’ve stated before, without agreeing to the same set of information (or facts) we can’t have a dialogue, debate, or discussion about anything.

I’m not against polarization when it comes to certain issues. Some things just have no middle ground. As Gary North is fond of pointing out, a posture of neutrality is an illusion where one side tries to gain the upper hand on the other.  The important things in life ultimately come down to the broad way or the narrow way. Lesser things can be negotiated or reduced to personal preference.

What bothers me about the fake news debate is that the purveyors of fake news have appointed themselves as the arbitrators of what is fake news; thus, when the fox places itself in charge of the henhouse, there can be only one outcome.

Let’s look at the previous election

To the is day, not a single liberal will admit to any voter fraud in any state during the 2020 presidential election. This is an unreasonable and unrealistic claim. There is always voter fraud. The question is whether it is widespread, systemic, organized, and enough to sway the outcome.

When liberals claim there is no voter fraud, it just doesn’t compute. Look at it this way, “The results after Michigan’s 83 counties finished canvassing showed Mr. Biden beating Mr. Trump by over 154,000 votes.” and then a few months after the election, comes a court victory with this headline: Michigan Removes 177,000 Voters From Voter Rolls After Legal Challenge Why am I the bad guy when I see such things and say it doesn’t pass the smell test?

If Michigan and other states would voluntarily clean their voter rolls on a regular basis then we conservatives would have more faith in the system; however, the reality is that it takes years of lawsuits to force Secretary’s of State in Democrat controlled states to do their job. Oh, and even prevailing in court is no guarantee that the voter rolls are ever cleaned up.

Folks, I know that California does not care about election integrity or keeping clean voter rolls. As long as Democrats continue to win elections, there will be no meaningful election reform in the once golden state.

Prior to the election, was this report from Judicial Watch:

New Judicial Watch Study Finds 353 U.S. Counties in 29 States with Voter Registration Rates Exceeding 100%

Media Matters and other groups on the left, throw hammers at Judicial Watch but where it counts, Judicial Watch wins.

The lawsuit confirmed that Los Angeles County has on its rolls more than 1.5 million potentially ineligible voters. This means that more than one out of every five LA County registrations likely belongs to a voter who has moved or is deceased. Judicial Watch notes that “Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any single county in the country.”

The Judicial Watch lawsuit also uncovered that neither the State of California nor Los Angeles County had been removing inactive voters from the voter registration rolls for the past 20 years.

California and Los Angeles County to Remove 1.5 Million Inactive Voters from Voter Rolls – Settle Judicial Watch Federal Lawsuit

Please note the last line in the quote above, California voter rolls have not been cleaned up in over 20 years which I’m willing to bet was the last time a Republican was Secretary of State.

Meanwhile, after a brief internet search…

Yep, it was Bill Jones, the last Republican to win the office of California Secretary of State. Jones served from 1995 – 2003.

Bill Jones 1995

This allows me to circle back to a claim made by Brad Smith, “… even after losing more than 50 lawsuits in a row, President Trump waged a sustained campaign that successfully persuaded tens of millions of his supporters that the election was rigged.”

Folks, Trump lost zero trials on the voter fraud issue because none was ever heard in court. Even the Supreme Court has taken a pass on this issue. The courts refused because they view this as a political issue and since the election is over, it’s a moot point. Thus, no determination is or will be made on election fraud or if it was significant enough to change the election outcome. I think the federal courts are taking a pass on this not due to the substance of the issue, but because they know that if the case is heard, it will be used politically as a way to even further politicize the court system and make it even less independent than it is now. Packing the court is a likely outcome of any judicial relief granted to Trump. Also, I don’t think the courts are comfortable being the arbiters of last resort in Presidential elections.

If during the first two years of the Trump administration, a national system or standard was set for vote I.D. in federal elections, I think the outcome would have been different last November. But when the leadership on both sides of the political aisle are all in very safe seats then little incentive exists to fix a very broken system. Oh, and yes, I would prefer a state solution over a federal one but see my comments above on California. No chance it ever happens here.

Conclusion

Much of the time, fake news is in the eye of the beholder. We see what we want and ignore much of the rest. This trend will continue into the future. Soon we will go from memes with fake quotes and funny captions to fake videos with words never uttered. Discerning truth will become more difficult. Look for some to just give up on trying and resort to feelings to guide them—half our population is predisposed to do this already. “Trust your feelings Luke.” Those of us that believe there is only one Truth will become fewer.

I know that digital information will be even more scattered and fragmented in the future. As our culture becomes more splintered and fragmented, we become even more isolated, even living amongst other people. Sin divides us from God, His creation, our fellow man, and ourselves.

More and more you will hear some variation of the mantra, “you have your truth and I have mine.” Or the sugarcoated Disney version of “follow your heart.” This is a lie. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

 There is only One Truth. Denial of its reality does not change Reality. Believing faerie tales like there are more than two genders, or evolution explains creation, or abortion is not murder, or “gay marriage” only proves your denial, self-delusion, and spiritual blindness.

The controversy over fake news is a microcosm or a much larger battle; a spiritual one.

Here’s what our future looks like unless we change our ways. Take a look at Deuteronomy 28 starting at verse 15.

Below are a few selections from this passage:

The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.

The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.

The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you.

The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, but you will be the tail.

Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot.

There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.

The good news is the God has promised believers that His Spirit will lead you into all Truth. Only God can cut through all the “white noise” in our culture and give you the wisdom to discern which spirits of our age should be shunned or followed.

Trusting in Big Tech to decide what’s best for us is just another name for tyranny. That Big Tech wants to work hand-in-hand with big government instead of hold government accountable, is no surprise. In a way, this marriage of convenience; looks to be the ideal power couple… for now.

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