Make America Silent – The Disturbing Trend Towards Censorship Under The Guise of “Fake News”

Our Standards and Protecting Consumers

When we started Revcontent, the #1 focus was always the user – creating a better user experience and protecting those users. Consumer protection has always been integral to our culture at Revcontent, and everything we do is with the user in mind. 

It’s why we have always employed the largest compliance team in the industry to enforce strict standards. An entire staff works around the clock, testing content on multiple device, consistently terminating sites or banning nefarious content. Consumers are #1, and with content recommendation, we aim to allow brands to deepen their personal relationship with their readers. Any content that is intentionally misleading consumers is denied in our network. 

The results of these efforts are obvious: the compliance team conducts more than 130,000 reviews each month, and less than 6% of publishers who apply to join the Revcontent network are approved. 

We are constantly playing this game of cat and mouse , and we are constantly looking for new technologies and strategies to wage this war. For example, we found people were changing pages based on devices, so we got emulators. Then, they detected the emulators, so we actually went out and purchased all the devices (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc) in order to catch the advertisers loading different pages by device.

We Know The Industry Needs to Get Better

However, we know that for ourselves and for the industry as a whole, we need to keep growing in this. In light of the buzz on “fake news,” this is more important than ever. We are 100% against deceiving consumers and always have been. 

As this came to our attention, we immediately added addiction restrictions related to intentionally deceptive political news. Like many thought leaders, innovators, and journalists have already stated on this topic, the category of “Fake News” is quite broad. The clearest cases are instances where there is direct, demonstrable intent to deceive. For example, any website impersonating a brand is immediately denied and terminated (e.g. -“newsweek.co” with the same branding, logo, and format of “newsweek.com” is an impersonation intentionally attempting to mislead users and would obviously be denied in the Revcontent network).

Other cases are harder and less clear-cut. While we are reluctant to make editorial decisions or become the arbiter of truth for all content online, we always believe in the protection of people.

Censorship as An Excuse to Protect Consumers?

We’ve said user protection is the #1 concern, so is censorship really the answer?

Like we wrote in an open letter entitled, “Make America Silent Again…” we do question where the line between protecting consumers and censorship exists. When platforms start making editorial decisions, we no longer become platforms; we become media publishers ourselves.

The challenge is when platforms become editors. Earlier this year when Facebook hired people to adjust the trending recommendations on their newsfeed, it quickly became apparent that all people are biased and that the bias of people is the risk in itself. I do not trust a company willing to aggressively cross over that line. I believe we have to be very careful to recognize our own bias and that we ourselves are the greater risk to journalism itself as the platform being engaged upon.

I believe we shouldn’t be calling for more censorship; we should be calling for more transparency.

We should be calling for transparency of bias, which is a concept our team at Revcontent has actually invented using our machine learning technology.

We can run through any articles and now understand political bias and whether that content is left leaning, right leaning, or centrist. I envision a world where people are made aware of the bias and a world where people can see a counter points to the current article bias they are reading, a world where the media can once again build trust with their readers.

This is the future of journalism and protecting people – give everyone a voice, and do not shut people’s voices down because it’s the voice you don’t want to hear that we need to protect the most. Those are the voices that change our culture, our democracy. The greatest cultural shifts and changes have been built upon the freedom of speech, dissenting voices, and people who used language to challenge the status quo. We will always go above and beyond any obligations to ensure that users are protected from deception, but we do not want to be the barrier of voices.

The greatest cultural shifts and changes have been built upon the freedom of speech, dissenting voices, and people who used language to challenge ideal systems and the status quo. I do not want to silence those voices. Once we begin the tide of censorship, it is hard to stop.

As a team, we are constantly learning and staying true to our value of Fast Failure. Our goal (and we know we’re still growing in this) is to create the best user experience possible for consumers and level the media playing field for brands. As our industry continues to grow, we hope to continue be a leader in that innovation.

 

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John Lemp

John Lemp is the Founder and CEO at Revcontent.