If you have watched a YouTube video in recent weeks, you have probably noticed the incessant wave of advertisements by a media company calling itself The Epoch Times. Their ads are so dominant right now on that site, it almost feels like they are the only company buying them, or that they are somehow being funded by YouTube. That’s not the case, they just have millions of dollars to spend, and aren’t shy about spending it. The content of these advertisements presents a picture of a media company trying to gain an audience by promoting news that is factual and without bias, but at the same time makes no effort to conceal its agenda of extremism, which is both disturbing, and dangerous to the public sphere. It is important that the general populace knows exactly who these people are.
Screenshot, Epoch Times (fair use)
The Epoch Times was started by John Tang in the year 2000 as a Chinese language newspaper. John Tang is a graduate of Georgia Tech who publicly supports the Fulan Gong, a Chinese religious order that opposes communism and as such is banned from practicing in China. The newspaper started as an anti-propaganda, but quickly transitioned to other languages and although it actively promotes anti-communism, much of its content is focused on hard right spinning of the news and promotion of conspiracy theories that actively spread false information.
Screenshot, YouTube (fair use)
For proof of The Epoch Times’ reckless portrayal of itself as a news organization, one has to look no further than how it has covered the covid-19 pandemic. It relentlessly refers to the novel coronavirus as the China virus. There are a multitude of stories on the site and on its YouTube channel that make claims about the virus’ origins that have not been proven, or are refuted by expert sources, such as conspiratorial assertions that the virus was manipulated and released by a lab in Wuhan and that the Chinese government has been actively covering it up. In one of their latest ads, they offer free to subscribers a lengthy booklet that explicitly focuses on this China Cover Up of Covid-19, calling it “the truth.” They also doggedly seem to promote the talking points of the Trump Administration, repeating its claims about testing and availability of resources that are easily disproved by multiple sources. A site like this that tells its audience it is a factual news source, while actively disseminating misinformation is a danger to the public.
If you want to know a media company’s bias, just look at where and how it spends its money. The Epoch Media Group was caught spending two million dollars in ads for the Trump campaign on Facebook, and utilizing “sock puppet” accounts to hide the sources of the funding, which resulted in them being banned from advertising on Facebook. They were the second highest source of funding for pro-Trump ads on the site, falling behind only the Trump campaign itself. Since they were booted from Facebook, it only makes sense they moved their focus over to YouTube, which explains the over abundance of their content being shoved in people’s faces right now.
The site News Guard rated The Epoch Times a 20 out of 100 for journalistic integrity. It found that the media organization readily mixed opinion with fact, and made no effort to distinguish the two. It found that they made little effort to verify sources before using them to report on events, and when caught in errors, it made little effort to correct itself. It found that often the writers of the articles were not disclosed to the public. And, most importantly, it found that the company knowingly published false content on a regular basis.
Screenshot, Youtube (fair use)
The Epoch Times, as of 2012, had a circulation of 1.3 million subscribers, according to its website. On YouTube, it shows having 210,000 people subscribed to its main channel, and another 200,000 subscribed to its subsidiary channel American Thought Leaders. On Twitter, they currently have 253k followers. On Facebook, 6 MILLION people follow their page. This is an unsettling number of people consuming information from a poisoned source, likely believing it to be factual. This source, along with other outlets that have risen in recent years along with Fox News and more recently OAN News, might as well work together for America’s own version of state-sponsored propaganda.
The question must be asked, how does the average American protect themselves from being misled in this era of “fake news”? And more importantly, why are organizations allowed to call themselves “the news” under the broad umbrella of opinionated fact-spinning? It maintained that information shared through media networks had to fairly showcase arguments of the opposition, especially on controversial issues. This regulation was abolished in 1987. The rule was removed from the federal register in 2011.
Without something like this in place, organizations have been allowed to run amok pretending to serve the public interest while subversely funneling information through their own agendas. They hide behind the First Amendment, operating under the pretense, that if they believe it to be true, it must not be a lie. As such, campaigns of misinformation have been utilized to actively deceive the American public, and we find ourselves in the middle of an information war. The question is, what can be done about it now? Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.