The term "hate speech" has become a useful tool for speech suppression, mostly from the Left side of the political aisle. The reason it is such a dangerous term for free speech is that there is no useful definition of hate speech, meaning that in practice it often comes to mean, "confrontational speech that I disagree with." I think most of us would agree that saying, "all black men should be lynched" is unambiguously hateful. But what about saying something like "African Americans need to come to terms with the high rate of black on black violence." Or even, "President Obama plays too much golf." I would call both the latter statements opinions that, even if wrong, reasonably fit within the acceptable bounds of public discourse, but both have been called hate speech and racist.
The Left's new tool for speech suppression appears to be the term "fake news." Certainly a news story that says, "American actually has 57 states" would be considered by most to be fake. We understand (or most of us outside places like the New York Times, which still seems to get fooled) that sites like the Onion are fake. But, as I suspected the very first time I heard the term, "fake news" also seems to be defined as "political sites with which I disagree." Via Reason:
But Zimdars' list is awful. It includes not just fake or parody sites; it includes sites with heavily ideological slants like Breitbart, LewRockwell.com, Liberty Unyielding, and Red State. These are not "fake news" sites. They are blogs that—much like Reason—have a mix of opinion and news content designed to advance a particular point of view. Red State has linked to pieces from Reason on multiple occasions, and years ago I wrote a guest commentary for Breitbart attempting to make a conservative case to support gay marriage recognition....
Reporting on the alleged impact of fake news on the election is itself full of problems. BuzzFeed investigated how well the top "fake" election news stories performed on Facebook compared to the top "real" election news stories. The fake stories had more "engagement" on Facebook than stories from mainstream media outlets. There's basic problems with this comparison—engagement doesn't mean that people read the stories or even believed them (I know anecdotally that when a fake news story shows up in my feed, the "engagement" is often people pointing out that the story is fake).
There's also a problem when you look at the top stories from mainstream media outlets—they tend toward ideologically supported opinion pieces as well. Tim Carney over at The Washington Examinernoted that two of the top three stories are essentially opinion pieces:
Here's the top "Real News" stories: "Trump's history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?" As the headline suggests, this is a liberal opinion piece, complaining that the media doesn't report enough on Trump's scandals.
No. 2 is "Stop Pretending You Don't Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton." This is a rambling screed claiming that people only dislike Clinton because she is a woman.
So in an environment where "fake news" is policed by third parties that rely on expert analysis, we could see ideologically driven posts from outlets censored entirely because they're lesser known or smaller, while larger news sites get a pass on spreading heavily ideological opinion pieces. So a decision by Facebook to censor "fake news" would heavily weigh in favor of the more mainstream and "powerful" traditional media outlets.
The lack of having a voice in the media is what caused smaller online ideology-based sites to crop up in the first place. Feldman noted that he's already removed some sites that he believes have been included "unfairly" in Zimdars' list. His extension also doesn't block access to any sites in any event. It just produces a pop-up warning.
Tellingly, in a quick scan of the sites, I don't see any major sites of the Left, while I see many from the Right (though Zero Hedge is on the list and writes from both the Left and the Right). Daily Kos anyone? There are conspiracy sites on the list but none that I see peddle conspiracies (e.g. 9/11 trutherism) of the Left.
This is yet another effort to impose ideological censorship but make it feel like it is following some sort of neutral criteria.