New York Times tech reporter Kevin Roose highlighted four popular stories on Facebook as “right-wing misinformation” on Monday night. But the four headlines Roose shared, from a handful of right-leaning outlets, were factual — calling into question why he described them as “misinformation” in the first place.
Let’s go over it. Roose tweeted four headlines that were among the “10 most-engaged URLs” on Facebook over the last 24 hours. The headlines he deemed “misinformation” were:
— AG William Barr Authorizes DOJ to Look Into Voting Irregularities, via Breitbart
— Republican in Michigan Goes From Loser to Winner After ‘Technical Glitch’ Fixed. Officials urge ‘Confidence’ in System, via The Daily Wire
— Michigan Legislature Holds Rare Emergency Session to Investigate Election Irregularities, via Bongino
— Perdue, Loeffler Call on Georgia Sec of State to Resign Over Election, also via Breitbart
The problem is, all four of those headlines are factual and reported actual events. Similar headlines can be found on these stories from a number of other local and national outlets, including The New York Times. For comparison to Breitbart’s headline on Attorney General William Barr, the Times’ headline on Monday was, “Barr Hands Prosecutors the Authority to Investigate Voter Fraud Claims.”
Roose’s tweet, which was retweeted 4,700 times by 1:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, received a fair amount of pushback.
“When people see a disinfo-panic tweet like this — which invokes the spectre of misinformation but features four accurate headlines — a lot of them will be less likely to listen when you try to alert them to actual misinformation,” tweeted Reason.com book editor Jesse Walker.
When people see a disinfo-panic tweet like this—which invokes the spectre of misinformation but features four accurate headlines—a lot of them will be less likely to listen when you try to alert them to actual misinformation. https://t.co/w2BwkYH44u
— Jesse Walker (@notjessewalker) November 10, 2020
New York Times tech reporter calls four accurate stories “right wing misinformation” 👀👀 https://t.co/n5r2ftnDA8
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) November 10, 2020
All of these headlines are true.
"Misinformation" = facts liberal journalists don't like. https://t.co/ZTU5HIV4gb
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) November 10, 2020
Misinformation means false information. This is a fundamental redefinition of the word. Anyone who cares about preserving the meaning of words should be mad. I hope that's not just conservatives. https://t.co/ytvkMDOGQ2
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) November 10, 2020
Roose did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. He later attempted to explain his use of “misinformation” on Tuesday morning, tweeting “For the conservatives who are mad about this: yes, it is possible for a story to be factually accurate *and* for it to be part of a misinformation campaign aimed at undermining confidence in an election.” He then walked back his comment slightly, saying “Most of these stories aren’t ‘false,’ per se,” and acknowledged other outlets had reported on them as well.
“But if you look at how they’re framing and serving them up (‘BAM,”REVEALED,”JUST IN’) and what facts they aren’t including, it’s obvious they know what they’re doing,” Roose said.
The Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing, when reached for comment, said he “couldn’t possibly respond to Roose better than Ben did,” referring to his partner Ben Shapiro’s tweet thread from Tuesday morning. Shapiro called Roose’s tweets a “f***ing joke,” and later said “this is what our esteemed tech activists pseudo-journalists and pseudo fact-checkers do. They don’t actually fact-check. They implication check and narrative check. If they don’t like the implications or the narratives, they call factually true stories misinformation.”
I'm sorry, this is a f***ing joke. By this standard, Trump is absolutely right to call your newspaper "fake news," since you have distributed factually accurate stories that promote false narratives, from Russian collusion to systemic American racism. https://t.co/GgY1zLXCIn
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) November 10, 2020