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Twitter vs. the New York Post

The efforts of Facebook and Twitter to suppress the New York Post’s reporting represent exactly the wrong way to approach these kinds of questions. A better way — one I suggested to Mark Zuckerberg a couple of years ago, to no apparent effect — is to begin with an institutional approach.

What would that look like?

Basically, it would amount to a kind of preclearance list. The New York Post is a major American newspaper, and what is in it matters. Maybe you don’t like the Post, its politics, its funny headlines, whatever. (Disclosure: I write regularly for the Post.) What is in the Post is of general public interest simply because it is in the Post, if for no other reason. The Post may get something wrong from time to time, as every newspaper does, but it is a major newspaper and one that we can trust is not secretly a Russian disinformation operation.

Of course it is possible that the Post could get snookered by a Russian propaganda operation: The New York Times famously did and won a Pulitzer for it.

Twitter and Facebook can reasonably extend the benefit of the doubt to the Post. I’d extend the same benefit of the doubt to the New York Times, the Associated Press, and the New Republic, even though each of those has within memory been forced to retract substantial bodies of reporting that turned out to be simply fabricated. (Jayson Blair, Chris Newton, Stephen Glass, etc.) Sources don’t have to be perfect to be on the greenlight list. We don’t need Silicon Valley worker ants to vet Dennis Prager, Hillsdale College, Glenn Beck, or Ben Shapiro — or The Nation, for that matter, or Paul Krugman, even though he writes things from time to time that are not quite entirely consistent with the facts.

Well-established media outlets, members of Congress, and other similar sources should be given the benefit of the doubt not because they always tell the truth or because they never make mistakes but because there are better and more effective ways to deal with their shortcomings than by having the intellectually homogeneous and lightly qualified staffs of Twitter or Facebook act as the nation’s super-editors and super-publishers.

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