Sinister sounds: podcasts are becoming the new medium of misinformation



Ariel Bogle

In the drawn-out aftermath of the US election, Amelia’s* dad was losing faith in Fox News. Why wasn’t it covering more allegations of voter fraud, he asked. The network was “a joke”.

And so he turned to alternative sources of information: podcasts like Bannon’s War Room, hosted by alt-right figure Steve Bannon, which regularly broadcasts baseless claims about ballot dumps and illegal voters. And an old favourite of his, the rightwing Catholic podcast The Taylor Marshall Show.

In the US, Australia and across the Anglosphere, people regularly spend hours with strangers talking directly into their ears. Around one third of Australian news consumers are reported to be podcast listeners, and indications are that numbers have grown during the pandemic.

Yet the role of podcasts in the information ecosystem has gone largely unexamined. While alt-right figures have been increasingly chased off Facebook and Twitter, podcasting is shaping up as the next arena where the fight over questionable or dangerous content will play out. However, the problem of how to moderate audio content is proving thorny.

Take Bannon’s War Room. A November episode of the show was removed from YouTube due to Bannon’s violent comments about the leader of the United States’ pandemic response, Dr Anthony Fauci, and the FBI director, Christopher Wray: “I’d put the heads on pikes, right,” Bannon said. “I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats.”

Seguir leyendo: The Guardian