Amid the growing concern about the veracity of online news outlets, various internet users have begun to scrutinize what they read more carefully to make sure it’s not “fake news” before trusting it. And that’s a good thing. But theat paranoia has also created an opportunity for scam artists to maliciously create confusion for their own personal amusement or agenda. Perhaps the most jarring instance of these scams is a site called “Media Bias Fact Check” which turns out to be just one guy making up whatever he feels like about news outlets, based on what he admits is his personal opinion, while typically providing no evidence – and then altering the ratings of news outlets who point out his scam.
One look at the “Media Bias Fact Check” website reveals it to be something that looks like it was created in 1995. Some independent news outlets (including this one) tend to have a bare bones look and feel about their design, in fitting with their non-corporate media parameters. But the site Media Bias Fact Check is trying to position itself as some kind web security firm or media authority, and any scrutiny of the site reveals it to be far from it.
Despite claiming in its tag line to be “The most comprehensive media bias resource,” the site turns out to simply be one guy named Dave Van Zandt who posts whatever he feels like. He claims to use a “strict methodology” for assigning bias ratings to various news outlets, but his “ratings” typically read like the gibberish one might find in an unmoderated comment section in the worst corners of the internet.
For instance, when it comes to Daily Kos, a widely respected political news site, Van Zandt’s rating consists of “Not a credible news source. Blatant left wing bias that is written by bloggers who won’t even use their real names. Requires fact and source checking. One of the worst sources on the internet.” That’s it; that’s his entire rating. To back up his personal opinion of Daily Kos, Van Zandt provides literally nothing in terms of examples or sources. His “rating” of Kos consists merely of his own brief and unsubstantiated opinion. And then bizarrely, after telling his audience that Kos is biased, he posts a poll asking the public whether Kos is biased.
Van Zandt’s “ratings” for other sites are similarly pitiful. For instance he simply declares that the Huffington Post “Has typical left wing bias” while once again providing no sourcing or evidence or examples to back up his opinions. And his rating for Cosmopolitan Magazine consists entirely of “Cosmopolitan is an international fashion magazine for women and has a circulation of over 3 million. Cosmo’s primary focus is on fashion, sex and relationship tips, but they also cover politics. Cosmo has a strong left wing bias in reporting and story selection.” It reads like something he cribbed from Wikipedia.
Worse, it turns out Van Zandt has a vindictive streak. After one hapless social media user tried to use his phony “Media Bias Fact Check” site to dispute a thoroughly sourced article from this site, Daily News Bin, we made the mistake of contacting Van Zandt and asking him to take down his ridiculous “rating” – which consisted of nothing more than hearsay such as “has been accused of being satire.” Really? When? By whom? None of those facts seem to matter to the guy running this “Media Bias Fact Check” scam.
But instead of acknowledging that he’d been caught in the act, Van Zandt retaliated against Daily News Bin by changing his rating to something more sinister. He also added a link to a similar phony security company called World of Trust, which generates its ratings by allowing random anonymous individuals to post whatever bizarre conspiracy theories they want, and then letting these loons vote on whether that news site is “real” or not. These scam sites are now trying to use each other for cover, in order to back up the false and unsubstantiated “ratings” they semi-randomly assign respected news outlets.
None of this unsubstantiated trash from the bottom rungs of the internet would matter if people weren’t falling for it. But due to the current paranoia regarding “fake news” and such, scam artists like Van Zandt have managed to get a free pass from some members of the public who fall for his worthless “ratings” of respected news outlets without bothering to scrutinize the nobody who’s making up the ratings. “Media Bias Fact Check” is truly just one guy making misleading claims about news outlets while failing to back them up with anything, while maliciously changing the ratings to punish any news outlets that try to expose the invalidity of what he’s doing.
There’s nothing inherently malicious about posting ones personal opinions on the internet. It becomes sketchier when one does so without bothering to back it up with anything. And doing so while masquerading as some kind of internet security site? That makes it a scam. It speaks for itself when the individual changes his ratings in order to punish news outlets who try to expose his scam. But until the current paranoia toward independent news outlets dies down, there’s little to prevent con artists like Dave Van Zandt and phony sites like “Media Bias Fact Check” from conning the most gullible of social media users into believing whatever phony ratings they churn out. The public must work together to protect each other from falling for these kinds of fake security sites. If you enjoy Daily News Bin, consider making a contribution: