BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel on the Information Wars & Media Gatekeeping

"You can risk going too far. You can risk saying everyone has a right and should see every single piece of everything, no matter how incredulous, how ridiculous, how over the top, how upsetting … So we’re going to take you into 4Chan and show you all the most racist terrible memes and all that stuff. There’s an idea now … that there are ways we can responsibly do a little more of that gatekeeping.” 


That's BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel talking about some of his lessons learned in his years of doing journalism coverage of conspiracy theories, attention hacking, bots, and attempts by bad actors to manipulate the public. We talk "data voids" and "grief tourism," among other things. Here's a guide to the discussion:


6:30 — Why Charlie lives in Montana — “I really think we’re going to see a lot more journalists doing this.”


11 —Charlie’s entry into journalism as an intern on “Meet the Press”


15:35 - “The first time I ever thought critically about Facebook …"


19 - “Is it a universal good that we’re all connected this much? … I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it in that way.” 


21:27 - Why Danah Boyd refused to use Alex Jones’ name in her ONA talk.


23 - What is a "data void" and how do bad actors exploit them?

"You’re getting information that might not have any context and might lead you down a rabbit hole.”


29:22 - How the term “incel” has been one way that online radicals have manipulated media organizations and journalists.


31:35 - "It is a really tricky concept for a lot of journalists to think that they own the story."


33:15 - “It was this idea that we can’t be gatekeepers. We need to be guides.” 

"You can risk going too far. You can risk saying everyone has a right and should see every single piece of everything, no matter how incredulous, how ridiculous, how over the top, how upsetting … So we’re going to take you into 4Chan and show you all the most racist terrible memes and all that stuff. There’s an idea now … that there are ways we can responsibly do a little more of that gatekeeping.” 


38 - How some people spread conspiracy theories to undermine the media and mock the media’s “grief tourism” 


42 - Why it’s a problem for the media that most people don’t know journalists, because local media has collapsed. 


46:30 - How BuzzFeed has tried to balance being a guide and a gatekeeper, and how publishing the Steele dossier fit into that. 


50:30 - Two principles for a news organization deciding whether to publish something or not


51:30 - Charlie’s questions about covering all of Trump’s tweets as breaking news 


55 - Charlie’s star turn in the Netflix/BuzzFeed documentary series on tech addiction 


Outro Music: “Long Time Ago” by The Jayhawks 

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