STORIES CENSORED BY CORPORATE MEDIA Part 3

A central purpose of my blog posts is to share information that is under-reported by the mainstream, corporate media. This post and the previous two (here and here) share highlights of the top ten under-reported stories of 2022 from the annual State of the Free Press report from Project Censored. The media – print, TV, on-line, and social media – have undergone a dramatic corporate consolidation over the last 40 years. They are now a handful of huge, for-profit corporations, often owned and run by billionaire oligarchs. Through bias and self-censorship, this has restricted the content and quality of the information reported, skewing the terms and content of public debate and decision making. Project Censored works to hold the corporate news media and their owners accountable. (See this previous post for more detail.)

(Note: If you find my posts too much to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making.)

The under-reported stories highlighted by Project Censored’s report mean that the media are failing to provide citizens and voters important information, which threatens our democracy. This also undermines progress toward of a just, fair, and inclusive society. My previous post summarized numbers five through seven of its top ten stories for the year. Here are summaries of the last three. [1]

UNDER-REPORTED STORY #8: CIA’s plans under Pompeo and Trump to kidnap or kill Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. Such plans were seriously considered in late 2017 according to September 2021 investigative reporting by Yahoo News based on interviews with over 30 former government officials. Pompeo and others wanted vengeance against Assange for Wikileaks online publishing of documents from the CIA’s top secret hacking division. Apparently, resistance from England (where Assange was in refuge in an embassy), from the U.S. National Security Council, and from the U.S. Department of Justice kept these plans from being undertaken. Despite some coverage in non-mainstream media of the Yahoo News reporting, very little, if any, coverage occurred in the mainstream, corporate media.

UNDER-REPORTED STORY #9: Efforts to prevent disclosure of election campaign donors. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision (and others) that have reduced regulation of and limits on campaign spending, the role of money whose true donor is unknown (so-called “dark money”) in our elections has exploded. Republican legislators at the national and state levels are promoting legislation that would make it illegal to require non-profit organizations engaged in political spending to disclose their donors.

At the state-level, legislators are using model legislation developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to ban such disclosure and have passed such laws in nine states. ALEC brings together corporate lobbyists and corporate-friendly legislators to draft and promote legislation favorable to corporations and right-wing interests. ALEC is part of the sprawling political influence network funded by right-wing billionaires, such as the Kochs and Bradleys, both of whom use dark money non-profits to conceal their political spending.

At the federal level, the 2022 fiscal year budget bill included a rider exempting politically-active non-profit organizations that self-identify as promoting the social welfare from having to report their donors. Another rider prevents the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring corporations to disclose political and lobbying spending.

There has been very little coverage in the corporate, mainstream media of these efforts to protect and expand dark money in election campaigns, let alone the role of ALEC and its collaborators in such efforts at the state level.

UNDER-REPORTED STORY #10: Lobbying against online privacy protections is, in part, funded by the mainstream media. “Surveillance advertising,” which collects a user’s data from online activities to tailor advertising to that individual, generally without the user’s knowledge, is ubiquitous and essential to profiting from online advertising. It is extremely profitable for social media apps and platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc. The mainstream media also depend on online advertising revenue, including the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, Time, the Washington Post, Fox TV, and many others.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working on regulations for the collection and use of data on online users. However, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and its lobbyists are opposing such regulation. The IAB is funded by and represents the interests of online media outlets (including the mainstream media) and data brokers. The personal user information collected online (including from minors) is not only used to target advertising by the app or platform being used, it is typically sold to data brokers. These data brokers create predictive models of users’ online behavior and then sell them to advertisers. These predictive models also allow manipulation of the public’s perceptions of political issues. This occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign: the British firm, Cambridge Analytica, used the personal date of Facebook users, without consent or permission, to craft and target political ads and propaganda.

The importance of revenue from online advertising is huge; it has grown from $32 billion in 2011 to $152 billion in 2020 (almost five times the previous amount). Meanwhile, hardcopy advertising revenue has declined roughly one-quarter from $125 billion in 2011 to $90 billion in 2020. The mainstream corporate media increasingly rely on extensive privacy violations to generate badly needed revenue from online advertising, while the public relies on them to report on this – obviously a huge conflict of interest. While there’s been some reporting of the FTC’s efforts to protect users’ privacy, the corporate media have been largely silent on the push by the FTC and in Congress to ban or severely regulate surveillance advertising. And they have been totally silent on the fact that the industry organization they fund, the IAB, is lobbying against privacy protections for online users as well as against limitations on surveillance advertising.

CONCLUSION: The overarching theme of these under-reported stories is the failure of the mainstream corporate media to educate the American public about the power and influence of wealthy corporations and individuals. The success of these wealthy special interests in influencing government policy and the enforcement of laws is something every voter needs to be well aware of in order to make informed decisions.

This blog can only scratch the surface of the issue of stories under-reported by the mainstream corporate media. For reporting on such stories (and many others), please see the free, reader-supported media that I recommended in this previous post.

[1]      Rosenberg, P., 1/3/23, “Project Censored, Part 2: Billionaire press domination,” The American Prospect, (https://prospect.org/power/project-censored-part-2-billionaire-press-domination/)

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