The Washington Post published an in-depth piece about Putin’s misinformation campaign that impacted on the 2016 Presidential campaign. In it they mentioned a writer going by the name of Alice Donovan. Rather than the ‘beginning freelance writer’ this Donovan claimed to be, the individual was a fake, a contrived persona, and a source of misinformation.
Donovan duped several far-left sites into publishing ‘her’ material. CounterPunch danced all around the issue in its effort to excuse it’s lax vetting. Ultimately, it accepted some blame…after first blaming the FBI.
If the FBI was so worried about the risks posed by Alice Donovan’s false persona, they could have tipped off some of the media outlets she was corresponding with. But in this case they refrained for nearly two years. Perhaps they concluded that Donovan was the hapless and ineffectual persona she appears to be. More likely, they wanted to continue tracking her. But they couldn’t do that without also snooping on American journalists and that represents an icy intrusion on the First Amendment. For a free press to function, journalists need to be free to communicate with whomever they want, without fear that their exchanges are being monitored by federal agencies. A free press needs to be free to make mistakes and learn from them. We did.
No, CounterPunch, you don’t get off that easy. In your effort to continuously publish, you accepted work from a ‘journalist’ whose only qualification seems to be they’ll allow you to publish their work without being paid.
Online writers don’t have to publish under their own name, but if so-called ‘news’ sites want to be treated credibly, they have to know the actual person submitting the work. They have to vet not only the sources of the news they print, but the people writing the stories.
Another far left group, We are Change, also published Donovan’s work. It scrubbed her stories from their site, but you can see them in the Wayback Machine.
By scrubbing Donovan’s stories it would seem as if We Are Change is acknowledging its errors in spreading misinformation. But what’s We Are Change NYC’s lead tweet today? A link to a 2016 piece attacking Hillary Clinton using unproven information that lacked any vetting.
— WeAreChange NYC (@WeAreChangeNYC) December 26, 2017
What’s in one of its lead stories? A video claiming that Clinton is in hot water over Uranium One. This, even though this story was debunked. And among the sources for the video is RT, a well known Russian propaganda organization.
For all of our valid criticism of mainstream media—in particular its obsessiveness with ‘both sides’—most of its members flatly acknowledge when they screwed up. And they promise to do better.
Sites like CounterPunch and We Are Change need to do the same.