Can anything be done about obviously disinformational news outlets?

Why do you think that?

Your premise is counterfactual, and your conclusion absurd.

My point was what can be done within the First Amendment to penalize or otherwise restrict this sort of aggressively untrue propaganda. I mean, there are lots of examples of how free speech can be restricted in the name of public safety, etc… You can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, unless you know, there’s actual fire. Similarly, they restrict foul language on broadcast TV.

And I’m not talking about a differing viewpoint on the same set of facts. It’s when there’s objectively true stuff- like global warming, and then there’s a highly influential group with an ideological axe to grind saying “it’s just a theory” or that there’s no proof, or that the scientists stand to profit in some way from it. All of which are either patently untrue, or are intended to obscure the truth by way of exploiting popular ignorance. (all sorts of stuff are “theories” that everyone accepts as absolutely true. Like gravity, for example. )

There’s no use whatsoever for that sort of nonsense in a modern civilized society. I mean, everyone who’s not mentally ill knows the world is essentially a sphere. Apparently not enough realize that a theory means that something has been observed and/or tested exhaustively- it’s not a hypothesis, which is what they’re confusing it with.

The other problem is that the Republicans/far-Right aren’t dealing in good faith- every time they come up with something absurd, like that business with the Democrats and the pedophile ring run out of a pizza joint(?) in DC, somehow the burden of proof falls on the Democrats to refute that. Which is wrong- the burden of proof ought to be on the side bringing the accusations. Maybe the answer is more aggressive libel laws, and liberal use of them, to stop this kind of nonsense. Wouldn’t it be great if the NSF filed suit against right-wing people and websites for libel or whatever? Seems to me they could claim reduced revenue (funding, grants, etc…) because these dickheads are poisoning the well against science.

I stand by my original assessment.

“Free speech” is not congruent with “true speech.” There is no right to not be lied to or to not be misled. There is no right to help you avoid people who are simply mistaken. Most of the stuff you are objecting to is editorial opinion anyway, even it it is not clearly labeled as such. Are you going to regulate that as well?

I repeat that you are trying to do much more damage than is caused by the things you complain about. You shouldn’t advocate muzzles for other people without realizing how soon it will be you with a muzzle.

I do agree with another point that has been raised here, that education can certainly help to inoculate the population against utter nonsense. If someone understand the scientific method, for example, they are less likely to be suspicious of science-based statements, and to understand how scientific opinion can change as more evidence is gathered.

So if you want to advocate for something useful and effective, advocate for better education.

Different corner, same bully.

But a fight worth having on so very many levels.

Another thing that could be done fairly simply is to make Fox News optional in your cable package. One thing I learned working for Charter (now Spectrum) is that every single cable subscriber, no matter how small the tier they subscribe to, is paying for Fox News because that is the deal they have to agree to in order to get access to a lot of other Fox owned channels. If you’re subscribing to expanded basic, whatever it’s called by your provider, you pay for Fox News AND ESPN no matter if you’re a pinko progressive sports hater–you pay for that shit every month. Make THAT sort of thing optional and allow people to opt out of paying for things they hate and I think it would make a good sized divot in their footprint, especially because once they’re optional they will immediately raise rates on those who volunteer to have their programming in an effort to keep their revenues intact, causing casual watchers to perhaps conclude they don’t REALLY need access to Tucker and Sean and Laura after all.

Interesting fact–Charter didn’t have the NFL channel for a good long while because NFL was holding out for a similar sort of sweet deal where 90 year old grannies with limited basic would have to pay another two bucks a month so the sports nuts could have NFL. Charter declined until they lowered their sights to something a bit more reasonable.

“If you’re subscribing to expanded basic, whatever it’s called by your provider, you pay for Fox News AND ESPN no matter if you’re a pinko progressive sports hater–you pay for that shit every month. Make THAT sort of thing optional and allow people to opt out of paying for things they hate”

snipped

Under you proposal, can one opt out of CNN and MSNBC?

Sure, why not? I sure as shit wouldn’t watch those corporate clowns if you paid me. The Clinton News Network and MSDNC can blow me.

Agreed

Which says something about our education system, maybe?

In the UK you need a broadcast licence to operate and part of the requirements for that licence are to report the news with due accuracy, with the specific principle being:

To ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

This is why Fox News cannot broadcast in the UK and why Sky News, also for a time owned by Rupert Murdoch, actually deserved its awards for the way it presented the news in the UK. UK news is still allowed to present opinion and show differing viewpoints, but they need to show a balance or put it in context.

Media is a fundamental part of democracy. Without the media the public cannot connect with or understand the government and then they will not be able to act as informed citizens. This is why the media is known as the Fourth Estate. It’s a real moving part of a functioning democracy. Or rather it’s like the leg of a table where the table is democracy itself. Remove a leg and the table might stand up just fine; however it just needs somebody to push it in the wrong direction and the whole thing will come crashing down.

American media desperately needs some sort of regulation. But I fear your written constitution, and the interests of the existing media players and politicians will make that utterly impossible to achieve.

For out-and-out lies, might the law on fraud be applicable? The entire purpose of law courts is to (try to) sift truth from untruth.

But of course there’s an enormous grey area of tendentious reporting and opinionated comment in between, and I don’t know of anywhere that’s struck the perfect balance.

https://boards.straightdope.com/t/teach-critical-thinking-in-public-schools

Here’s the thing though- free speech and the First Amendment don’t mean “unfettered, absolutely unregulated speech” any more than the Second Amendment means, or should mean “unfettered, absolutely unregulated access to firearms of any type”.

There’s ample precedent for regulating free speech. What I’m saying is that maybe it’s time to consider some sort of regulation within the context of self-avowed news outlets and their veracity. I mean, if someone wants to fire up a site and say that they’re totally editorial content, and nothing there is meant to be taken as the news, or even as the truth, then I’m fine with that.

But if they’re going to claim that they’re news, then in a sense, they’re acting as a public good, and IMO, should be regulated in that capacity, insofar as what they’re saying is generally accepted to be true, and is not outright bullshit. I mean, we have ‘news’ outlets saying stuff that is objectively untrue. Not just doing things like putting an editorial spin on actual events, but reporting things that are untrue, or putting SO much spin on it, that it amounts to untruth. I mean, stuff like global warming shouldn’t be allowed to be treated as if it’s either still undecided, or that it’s caused by something else. That science is firm. About all the real debate at this point is around how bad it will be. And the opposite is true- if something is a rumor or whatever, then it needs to be clearly and conclusively identified as something that’s not verified, or hearsay or whatever. Anyone claiming otherwise needs a big fat disclaimer saying that it’s not necessarily true, and that it hasn’t been verified, proof has not been produced, etc…

Most news outlets do just this, and tend to police themselves when they don’t. Look at Dan Rather and Brian Williams’ falls from grace for examples. Yet those clowns on Fox and OAN say far worse stuff every single day without repercussions, and those fools who watch those shows believe it in part because there’s nothing saying “This is unsupported by facts and is just the editorial opinion of this guy.”

And the argument isn’t that we’re using one side’s slant on truth to use the government to penalize the other either. Not when one side is substantially dealing in reality and actual truth, and the other is dealing in fantasy and severely skewed versions of the truth. I mean, saying that global warming is real isn’t imposing left-wing values on the right, it’s imposing reality on them, just like saying the earth is a sphere, etc… is imposing reality, not a viewpoint.

I’m all for identifying the left-wing stuff as opinion as well- no haring off and claiming that UHC will be cheaper is a fact, for example. That remains to be seen in the US, so it would be identified as an opinion and editorial slant.