We acknowledge and appreciate the apology from Daniel Sieradski, the creator of the “B.S. Detector” plugin, which inappropriately included Shadowproof.com in its list of “fake news” websites worthy of flagging. We also are grateful that some of Shadowproof managing editor Kevin Gosztola’s constructive criticisms appear to have been considered by the developers.
It is crucial that Sieradski took responsibility and owned the mistake made, where sites like Consortium News, Naked Capitalism, Truthout, and Truthdig were improperly listed. But there is one claim in the apology by Sieradski against Shadowproof that merits clarification.
Contrary to both Shadowproof and Naked Capitalism’s claims, all erroneous listings are immediately removed from our database, though it may take some time to be reflected in users’ browsers due to our release process and dependency on third parties, like Google, to distribute our software. I personally removed all of the aforementioned sites as soon as I learned of their inclusion.
We cannot and will not speak for Naked Capitalism. However, Shadowproof never suggested erroneous listings are not immediately removed from “B.S. Detector’s” database. We also ask: what claims?
“B.S. Detector” was released as a “proof-of-concept, not a finished product,” according to Sieradski. It had no track record. Yet, CBS News, a major establishment news media outlet, suggested the “B.S. Detector” has “a constantly-updated list of known fake news sites, propaganda mills and ‘promoters of kooky conspiracy theories'” as a reference point, which was—especially at that time—not true. When CBS News published their story on the “B.S. Detector,” the plugin had not been updated.
There are many questions about whether the “B.S. Detector” extension can ever be successful or useful to news consumers, and we once again call attention to this post written by journalist Adam Klasfeld. He took issue with the “blacklist-centric” nature of flagging “fake news,” where “digital scarlet letters” are affixed to news websites. Klasfeld advocated for disclosure instead. He persuasively insisted it would be better for news consumers to have a tool that displayed information about news websites: who or what funds the news outlet, whether the outlet has conflicts of interest, who is on the masthead, and whether the outlet engages in reporting that relies upon primary source documents or original reporting, etc.
The issue of “fake news” is primarily an issue fueled by a pervasive lack of media literacy among United States citizens. An extension with a clearly defined and objective criteria for providing information on websites could be helpful to educating citizens, who consume a substantial amount of news on the Internet every day.
*For Daniel Sieradski’s full apology, go here.
**For Kevin Gosztola’s post containing constructive criticism about the “B.S. Detector” extension, go here.