The Etats généraux de l’information : what for?

For nine months, consumers and producers of journalistic information will be discussing the French press industry. Digital giants have long since unwittingly taken global control of news.

Digital social media have gradually replaced the local “feuilles de choux” as the means of informing citizens. With Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn, journalistic information is blithely mixed with communication, advertising, propaganda and… lies. In this shapeless magma, each user finds what he or she is looking for.
In just a few years, journalistic information (that which is verified and cross-checked, classified and hierarchically ordered) has given way to this monstrous mass of information managed by powerful algorithms that decide what can and cannot be published.
How do you sort it all out? How do you sort out what’s true from what’s false? The question is: who decides what is true? If I say: “God exists”, is that fake news? And who can verify this? What kind of fact-checking can provide the answer? Nobody, of course, since it’s a matter of belief. Belief is not knowledge.

Media and government: the same battle!

The health crisis is an example of the gigantic disinformation campaign conducted over the past three years by the mainstream media, which, with rare exceptions, peremptorily assert that vaccines designed to combat Covid-19 are safe. In so doing, they support the health policies of governments, which impose compulsory vaccination. Media and governments: the same battle!
But why do all the world’s media say the same thing at the same time on the same subjects? Why do they claim that vaccines are safe and that you need to be injected with two, then three, then four doses, maybe more? Why do authorities in every country follow the same blind logic? Why is there no possibility of scientific controversy on TV or in the newspapers on these subjects to allow debate and balance the information?
It’s simple: because the world’s major media are in the hands of a few very powerful industrial and financial groups, backed up by highly paid lobbies.
Now, these major press organizations and global digital companies have decided to join forces to form a huge cartel aimed at controlling information. They came together in 2019 in the Trusted News Initiative (TNI) “to protect the public and users from what they consider to be misinformation, particularly in ‘at-risk’ times like elections.” But also like the management of the health crisis or the war in Ukraine.

Information and misinformation

To make things clear, TNI has issued a press release with a clear title: “TNI tackles dangerous misinformation about vaccines”. It goes on to say, “TNI partners will alert each other to imminently life-threatening misinformation, so that targeted content can be quickly reviewed by platform managers, while publishers will take care not to unwittingly pass on dangerous lies.”
In other words, all partners are working together to track down and eliminate “anti-vaccine” misinformation from their respective platforms.
The partners? They are the major news agencies that supply every newsroom in the world: Agence France Presse (AFP), Associated Presser (AP), Reuters, but also the BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Facebook, Financial Times, First Draft, Google/YouTube, The Hindu, Microsoft, Reuters, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Twitter and The Washington Post.
The case of Reuters is particularly interesting. Acquired in 2007 by the Canadian group Thomson Financial, the international news agency, which became Thomson Reuters Corps, was chaired from 2012 to 2020 by James C. Smith. Smith currently heads the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a London-based charitable organization.
James C. Smith is also, since June 26, 2014 a member of the Board of Directors of Pfizer Inc . and one of the company’s leading investors. Mr. Smith is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council and numerous international advisory boards.

Censorship and fact-checking

The worst thing is not that Reuters continues to promote Pfizer’s pharmaceutical products, but that, like its other TNI partners, it intends to silence anyone who disagrees with them.
How do they do this? By fact-checking, which in itself is not at all reprehensible. But above all, by practicing censorship on a massive scale.
Here again, the digital giants have joined forces to fight (alleged) disinformation on their sites.
And there’s no better way of combating misinformation than to censor information that displeases by simply deleting it, without informing the author. And when the information seems too radical, the account holder is banned, fired or eliminated. “Your publication did not respect our community standards”!

This takeover of global information by the digital giants to serve their financial interests is deeply worrying. It prohibits reflection, it anesthetizes thought, it paralyzes controversy, it prevents exchange between professionals on issues that affect what we hold most dear: health.
On the contrary, we believe that scientific debate is the only way for science to emerge from obscurantism. Science is not static. It is constantly evolving. Ever since the philosopher of science Thomas Samuel Kuhn, we have known that scientific progress is not a cumulative process, but rather one of paradigm shifts. In other words, scientific thought reorganizes itself around new axioms.

A role as a counterweight

It’s true that the role of the press raises questions. Throughout the health crisis, the global news industry acted as a steamroller. Rather than taking a step back, giving the floor to scientists and doctors with differing opinions in order to enlighten the public and facilitate healthy scientific controversy, the media have given their unwavering support to the political and health authorities and to the big pharmaceutical companies. The press no longer plays its role as a counterweight. Readers, listeners and viewers have understood this, and are rejecting the press and its journalists in droves.
Are the producers of journalistic information even aware of this? The Etats généraux de l’information : what for?

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