Accuracy in Media

The contempt that modern American journalists have for ordinary Americans was on display again this weekend as BuzzFeed News took the lead in ratting out police and military members, often by name, who expressed a desire to join the group Oath Keepers, by publishing hacked data — that is, stolen data — including emails. 

“The emails were obtained by BuzzFeed News after an anonymous group claimed to have hacked the Oath Keepers’ servers and released the records to a group called Distributed Denial of Secrets,” according to BuzzFeed, “which posted much of the data publicly and shared some additional files with journalists and researchers.” 

While standards of publishing hacked data are still somewhat murky, Twitter and Facebook both supposedly ban the release of private information obtained by hacking. During the 2020 presidential campaign, the issue burst to the forefront as both Twitter and Facebook used the supposed “hacked data” policy to suppress stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop. 

“Twitter said it decided to block the links because [about the New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop] it couldn’t be sure about the origins of the emails,” NPR reported at the time. “It said its policy ‘prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization’ and that it doesn’t want to encourage hacking by allowing people to share ‘possibly illegally obtained materials.’”

Facebook, NPR said, had a general prohibition against “content obtained through hacking that contains private information.”

Despite these prohibitions, the stories about the Oath Keepers’ emails are being shared freely on Facebook and Twitter. 

The release of the information on Oath Keepers follows the indictment of six so-called members for complicity in the January 6 Capitol riot. 

Despite language among liberal journalists calling the riot an “insurrection” that suggests that the six people were conspiring to overthrow the government of the US.. on behalf of Oath Keepers, the six have been charged only with “Conspiracy; Obstruction of an Official Proceeding; Destruction of Government Property; Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds; Tampering with Documents or Proceedings,” according to the indictment. 

And joining Oath Keepers isn’t illegal, even if some allege that their activities are illegal, despite claims by some that the group has been outlawed.  

But that hasn’t BuzzFeed News from naming the people in the hacked emails as if they were tied to the Capitol riot, without first finding out whether the emails are authentic or talking to people whose names were used in the story. 

“’Greetings, I am active duty Navy,’ the person wrote under the name Ray Triboulet,” reported BuzzFeed, apparently with no regard for privacy or stolen data. 

“Two weeks later, someone named Benjamin Payne wrote to the Oath Keepers, identifying himself as ‘active LEO’ — or law enforcement officer — and a ‘lifetime member’ of the group,” reported the liberal rag in a similar vein. 

And: “On Feb. 4, scarcely a week after three members of the Oath Keepers were indicted for their role in the Capitol riots, an email came in from someone identifying himself as Scott Langton, ‘a current Washington State Police Officer looking for information.’” 

Now some of the people in the hacked emails could be subjected to harassment by members of their community and could face losing their job — which might be what the writer at BuzzFeed intended. 

Like their colleagues across the media, BuzzFeed intended to protect Hunter and Joe Biden in 2020 and beyond. 

But what can it benefit journalism and society when our resources are devoted to smashing the little guy and protecting the powerful? 

If that’s what passes for journalism today,  that’s not good for anyone. 

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