Ron Paul — Media Censorship or Conspiracy Theory?

By Shafqat • NewsCred Blog • Nov 26, 2007

As some of you may know, the blogosphere has literally been inundated with articles, posts, conspiracy theories and intense debates over possible online and mainstream media censorship of Ron Paul, a Republican candidate for the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. I've avoided writing about this topic because I didn't want to add any more fuel to the fire, but I think I'll highlight some of the issues being discussed because I find it quite interesting. For those looking for political leaning or my opinions regarding the candidate himself, you won't find it here. I thought I'd just share some of the main talking points, especially for our non-U.S. readers. Around the first week of November, doing a search on Facebook on the term 'Ron Paul' would not return any results, despite the existence of a huge FB group created by his supporters. FB announced it was a bug, apologized, and the search started working soon thereafter. TechCrunch covers this whole episode, and the comment stream is quite eye-opening (with a few hilarious/ridiculous comments thrown in for good measure). Then there was the record-breaking 24 hour fund raising marathon that brought in $4.2 million dollars for Ron Paul. It seems the coverage of this event in the mainstream media was underwhelming. See Brad Flora's post, which actually does a great job of providing evidence and screenshots from USA Today. Articles with fewer votes and fewer comments were displayed well above the minor coverage of Ron Paul's fundraiser. Finally, there is widespread speculation that all Ron Paul stories on social news sites such as Digg are getting buried. Despite hundreds of votes, these stories somehow never make it to the front page. A somewhat empirical study was done here. Just to make it absolutely clear, I am not convinced that there is some mass media conspiracy to censor Ron Paul. However, there is evidence to suggest that online media channels are not necessarily highlighting, promoting or sharing news that a significant portion of their audience might find relevant. I had a post earlier where I propositioned that mainstream media might be out of touch with the interests of their audience. Certainly Ron Paul (or any other presidential candidate) is not necessarily the number #1 priority of every news reader, but I would expect a story such as his remarkable 24 hour online fund raising event to get coverage. If you strip away all political bias, it's still an interesting piece of news that can be presented factually. $4.2 is a boatload of money after all! Whats the point of all this? One of the primary goals of NewsCred is to provide unbiased, credible, factual news that is relevant to our readers. Above all else, we believe that NewsCred should act as the forum for discussion and discourse, and NOT as an editorial board (and certainly not as a censor heaven forbid!). How do we do this? I believe transparency is the key. Perhaps we should open up our ranking and rating algorithm completely, and allow everyone to see the top stories, but more importantly, allow our users to see openly why certain articles are ranked higher than other news. If we can empiricially demonstrate the credibility and transparency of our algorithm, wouldn't that make NewsCred a far more reliable source of news?


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