BLACKLIST: Oxford Director Says ‘Public Service’ to Take Down Conservative Sites

August 4th, 2020 1:14 PM

Academics funded by Big Tech only argue for more censorship of conservative thought. 

The Oxford Internet Institute, a department of the University of Oxford, released a study that smeared conservative sites such as CNSNews, Breitbart, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, The Epoch Times, PJ Media, and FrontPageMag as “junk news and disinformation.” 

The study, “Follow the Money: How the Online Advertising Ecosystem Funds COVID-19 Junk News and Disinformation,” analyzed what advertising and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) were boosting pages and websites, which it suggested were “biased and misleading.” “The overwhelming majority of junk news & disinformation domains rely on major advertising platforms to monetize their pages and 61 percent of junk news & disinformation sources used Google ads,” wrote the study’s authors, Emily Taylor, Lisa-Maria Neudert, Stacie Hoffmann and Philip N. Howard. 

Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “They are hucksters, fraudsters, peddling misinformation. It would be a public service to take them down.” He also told The Times that Google and Amazon should think about making a blacklist that blocks websites which share “false and misleading” information about the pandemic. 

When Facebook announced it’s partnership with the Daily Caller’s fact-checker, Howard stated, “If it helps Facebook re-evaluate this, @polbots research has consistently rated @DailyCaller ‘junk news.’”

Howard has also mentioned on Twitter that he believes the Trump campaign and Trump supporters work primarily through “fake news.” 

The study noted: “Google has been criticized for repeatedly serving up biased and misleading search results and driving traffic to junk news sources, which in turn can be monetized through advertising.” It also criticized the availability of SEO tools because these tools have been “abused by bad actors to enhance the prominence of junk news in search results.” But Google already suppresses conservative content. One study found that the search engine promoted CNN three times more than Fox News. 

The researchers looked at 830 websites that published news and information about COVID-19. They split these websites into two separate groups: junk news and disinformation, and professional news. Using “fact-checkers” with a history of political bias like Politifact and Newsguard, they also found other sites that published content that had been “checked as false.”  These fact-checkers are not immune to mistakes. In the past, their fact-checks have been biased against President Donald Trump and conservatives. Politifact fact-checked Trump 132 times, while only fact-checking Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden 23 times. 

Sites were considered junk news if they “failed” on three out of five qualities: professionalism, style, credibility, bias, and counterfeit. 

Tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft support the department, which means these companies might take the report from Howard and his research team seriously. The Oxford University Computational Propaganda Project released a study with Graphika in 2018 that argued that fake accounts, ads, and tweets “all clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party -- and specifically Donald Trump.”

Conservatives are under attack. Contact Oxford Internet Institute and demand that platforms provide equal footing for conservatives: Companies need to make equal room for conservative groups as advisers to offset bias. That same attitude should be applied to employment diversity efforts. Tech companies need to embrace viewpoint diversity. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.