Accuracy in Media

Kotaku shows us why battling misinformation is so important, because invention and a made-up measure have made it now into a gaming site. This is what Kotaku is: a site about video and computer games.

“Last week, New World’s patch notes indicated that taxes on Trade Post transactions would increase from 2.5 percent to a whopping 5 percent. What’s funny about this situation is that the MMO is published by Amazon Games, which is owned by Jeff Bezos. Last year, ProPublica reported that Jeff Bezos paid a true tax rate of 0.98% from 2014-2018. Which means that if you want to trade on Amazon’s MMO, you’ll be paying five times the tax rate that Bezos pays in real life.”

Well, no. None of those comparisons of numbers are true. They’re based, in fact, upon an invention by ProPublica. One that was made, invented, as a piece of disinformation. An effective piece of disinformation, obviously, for here we have something invented out of pure air now turning up on a game’s site as a verified fact.

We talked about this before concerning Teen Vogue. The ProPublica invention is here. What ProPublica did was say that if your stock went up in value this year then you should pay the tax on that rise in value this year. Without having to sell it, without actually getting the money for that stock price rise. If you had to do this then that would be your “true tax rate”.

One problem with this idea is that no tax system – absolutely none, not a single one – anywhere in the world works this way. The reason that none do is that it’s an absurd way to try to tax. One example of this absurdity is that Jeff Bezos has, as Amazon stock sinks this year, lost perhaps $100 billion by the same measure. So, what would his tax refund look like? Quite, it’s absurd.

But that’s not the point of what ProPublica did at all. Rather, invent an entirely ridiculous measure of tax and watch it spread. As it already has done to Teen Vogue and now Kotaku. That’s the entire point of the enterprise, to spread disinformation. To get it as a commonly accepted idea across society that Bezos – and other billionaires – pay a 1% tax. This of course softens everyone up for the idea that there should be more taxes on billionaires.

Hey, maybe the rich should pay more, but not by inventing ridiculous measures of what they do pay. Also ignoring the tax refunds they’d be due when stock prices fall.

Kotaku is a gaming site. It ranks at No. 11 in U.S. sites for that market niche. It also gains some 19.9 million visits a month from that position. ProPublica ranks at 368 among general news media sites and gains some 3.3 million visits.

But there’s obviously a multiplier there. By inventing some non-existent definition of “true tax” rates then Propublica has created disinformation that then spreads through further sites. That’s the danger here. That this definition, which has no basis in either reality or good sense will become part of the general conversation, the things that everyone knows.

That is, misinformation deliberately concocted in order to create disinformation. It isn’t true that billionaires pay 1% (or 0.98%) on their incomes. But ProPublica has invented an untrue measure that makes people think they do. What is that if it’s not disinformation?

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