On Saturday, the New York Times published an article by technology reporter Nellie Bowles on Campbell Brown, a former TV newswoman who now works for Facebook. The article betrays the author’s hostility to conservatism at several points, but what drew attention was this howler:
Once those shows get started, Ms. Brown wants to use Facebook’s existing Watch product – a service introduced in 2017 as a premium product with more curation that has nonetheless been flooded with far-right conspiracy programming like “Palestinians Pay $400 million Pensions For Terrorist Families” – to be a breaking news destination.
Many commentators pointed out that the Palestinian Authority does, indeed, pay pensions to the families of terrorists, and the $400 million figure is correct. Today, the Times ate crow:
An article on Sunday about Campbell Brown’s role as Facebook’s head of news partnerships erroneously included a reference to Palestinian actions as an example of the sort of far-right conspiracy stories that have plagued Facebook. In fact, Palestinian officials have acknowledged providing payments to the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis or convicted of terrorist acts and imprisoned in Israel; that is not a conspiracy theory.
That’s a step in the right direction, of course. But note that the correction describes the erroneous Palestinian story as “an example of the sort of far-right conspiracy stories that have plagued Facebook.” In fact, it was the only example. The corrected paragraph now reads:
Once those shows get started, Ms. Brown wants to use Facebook’s existing Watch product — a service introduced in 2017 as a premium product with more curation that has nonetheless been flooded with far-right conspiracy programming — to be a breaking news destination.
If the journalist’s best example of “far-right conspiracy programming” on Facebook turned out to be wrong, why should we believe that Facebook’s Watch is “flooded” with such content? And is there far-left conspiracy programming on Watch, too? Or does the Times believe there is no such thing as a far-left conspiracy theory? Some would say that the Times itself has peddled more than a few such theories.
The New York Times suffers from a deep rot that will take much more than an occasional correction to cure.
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