Top Censored Press Stories of 2017
Note: To find the top media censorship stories of any year from 2003 to present, click here.
Project Censored specializes in covering the top stories which were subjected to press censorship either by being ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media each year. Project Censored is a research team composed of more than 300 university faculty, students, and community experts who annually review many hundreds of news story submissions for coverage, content, reliability of sources, and national significance.
The top 25 stories selected are submitted to a distinguished panel of judges who then rank them in order of importance. The results are published each year in an excellent book available for purchase at their website, amazon.com, and most major book stores.
A summary of the top 25 media censorship stories of 2017 provided below proves quite revealing and most informative. Each summary has a link for those who want to read the entire article. For whatever reason the mainstream media won't report these stories. Yet thanks to the Internet and wonderful, committed groups like Project Censored, the news is getting out. By revealing these examples of media censorship, we can stop the excessive secrecy and work together for a brighter future. Please help to spread the word, and take care.
Note: To find all of these stories and their sources on the Project Censored website, click here. The stories below actually cover a 12-month period spanning 2016 and 2017.
Top 25 Stories of 2017 Subjected to Press Censorship
1. Widespread Lead Contamination Threatens Children's Health (For full story, click here)
Nearly 3,000 neighborhoods across the US had levels of lead poisoning more than double the rates found in Flint, Michigan at the peak of its contamination crisis. Blood tests showed that more than 1,100 of those communities had rates of lead contamination "at least four times higher" than had been found in Flint. The US relies on an estimated 1.2 million miles of lead pipes for municipal delivery of drinking water. Much of this aging infrastructure is reaching or has exceeded its lifespan. A complete overhaul of the nation's aging water systems would require an investment of $1 trillion over the next 25 years, which could triple the cost of household water bills. A Michigan State University study found that, "while water rates are currently unaffordable for an estimated 11.9% of households this number could grow to 35.6% in the next five years."
Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell, "Unsafe at Any Level: Millions of American Children Missing Early Lead Tests, Reuters Finds," Reuters, June 9, 2016.
M.B. Pell and Joshua Schneyer, "Off the Charts: The Thousands of U.S. Locales Where Lead Poisoning is Worse Than in Flint," Reuters, December 19, 2016.
2. Over Six Trillion Dollars in Unaccountable Army Spending (For full story, click here)
According to a July 2016 report by the Department of Defense's Office of Inspector General (DoDIG), over the past 20 years the US Army has accumulated $6.5 trillion in expenditures that cannot be accounted for, because two government offices - the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army and the DoD's Defense Finance and Accounting Service - "did not prioritize correcting the system deficiencies that caused errors and did not provide sufficient guidance for supporting system-generated adjustments." In other words the DoD "has not been tracking or recording or auditing all of the taxpayer money allocated by Congress." $6.5 trillion in unaccountable Army expenditures represents approximately fifteen years' worth of military spending. Mandy Smithberger, director of the Strauss Military Reform Project [said], "Accounting at the Department of Defense is a disaster, but nobody is screaming about it because you have a lot of people in Congress who believe in more military spending, so they don't really challenge military spending."
Dave Lindorff, "The Pentagon Money Pit: $6.5 Trillion in Unaccountable Army Spending, and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades," This Can't Be Happening!, August 17, 2016.
Thomas Hedges, "The Pentagon Has Never been Audited. That's Astonishing," Guardian, March 20, 2017.
3. Pentagon Paid UK PR Firm for Fake Al-Qaeda Videos (Full story here)
The Pentagon paid a British PR firm more than $660 million to run a top-secret propaganda program in Iraq from at least 2006 to December 2011. The UK-based PR firm Bell Pottinger produced short TV segments made to appear like Arabic news stories and insurgent videos. According to Bell Pottinger's former chairman, Lord Tim Bell, his firm had worked on a "covert" military operation. He reported to the Pentagon, the CIA, and the National Security Council on his firm's work in Iraq. Bell Pottinger's work consisted of three types of products, including TV commercials portraying al-Qaeda in a negative light, news items intended to look like they had been "created by Arabic TV," and - the third and most sensitive type - fake al-Qaeda propaganda films. The firm's former video editor said that he was given precise instructions for production of fake al-Qaeda films, and that US Marines would take CDs of these films on patrol to drop in houses that they raided.
Crofton Black and Abigail Fielding-Smith, "Fake News and False Flags: How the Pentagon Paid a British PR Firm $500 Million for Top Secret Iraq Propaganda," Bureau of Investigative Journalism, October 2, 2016.
4. Voter Suppression in 2016 Presidential Election (For full story, click here)
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 addressed discrimination in voting by requiring all state and local governments with a history of racial discrimination to get preclearance from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws or procedures. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act could no longer be used. This made 2016 the first presidential election in fifty years without the full protections guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act. Since Shelby, fourteen states implemented new voting restrictions, in many cases just in time for the election. Texas implemented a photo-ID law that resulted in one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country. In North Carolina a voter-ID requirement permitted just a few acceptable forms of identification: According to data from the state's board of elections, over 300,000 registered voters lacked even one accepted form of ID. Arizona made changes to its voting laws that the Department of Justice had previously rejected due to minority voter discrimination.
Ari Berman, "This Election is being Rigged—But Not by Democrats," Nation, October 17, 2016.
A.J. Vicens, "John Roberts Gutted the Voting Rights Act. Jeff Sessions is Poised to Finish It Off," Mother Jones, November 28, 2016, .
Ari Berman, "Wisconsin's Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748)," Nation, May 9, 2017.
5. Big Data and Dark Money Behind the 2016 Election, (Full story here)
Right-wing computer scientist and hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer was the top donor to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, contributing $13.5 million. Mercer also funded Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company that specializes in "election management strategies" and using microtargeting. Cambridge Analytica's website boasts that it has psychological profiles based on thousands of pieces of data for some 220 million American voters. Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, and others used these capacities to tip the election toward Trump. Mercer's money also enabled Steve Bannon to fund Breitbart, a right-wing news site established with the express intent of serving as a Huffington Post for the Right. Since 2010, Mercer has donated $95 million to right-wing political campaigns and nonprofits. Alexander Nix, the chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, was quoted in a company press release the day after Trump's victory, saying, "We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump's extraordinary win."
Carole Cadwalladr, "Robert Mercer: The Big Data Billionaire Waging War on Mainstream Media," Guardian, February 26, 2017, .
Jane Mayer, interviewed by Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman, "Jane Mayer on Robert Mercer and the Dark Money Behind Trump and Bannon," Democracy Now!, March 23, 2017, .
Jane Mayer, "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency," New Yorker, March 27, 2017.
6. Antibiotic Superbugs Threaten Health and Foundations of Modern Medicine (For full story, click here)
Pharmaceutical companies that produce antibiotics are creating dangerous superbugs when their factories leak industrial waste. Superbugs are bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics. Pharmaceutical factories in China and India - the places where the majority of the world's antibiotics are manufactured - are releasing "untreated waste fluid" into local soils and waters, leading to increases in antimicrobial resistance that diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics and threaten the foundations of modern medicine. A number of the companies have established links to US markets. After bacteria in the environment become resistant, they can exchange genetic material with other germs, spreading antibiotic resistance around the world, according to an assessment issued by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA). At the heart of the issue is how to motivate pharmaceutical companies to improve their production practices. With strong demand for antibiotics, the companies continue to profit despite the negative consequences of their actions.
Melinda Wenner Moyer, "Dangerous New Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Reach U.S.," Scientific American, May 27, 2016.
Madlen Davies, "How Big Pharma's Industrial Waste is Fuelling the Rise in Superbugs Worldwide," Bureau of Investigative Journalism, September 15, 2016.
Katie Morley and Madlen Davies, "Superbugs Killing More People Than Breast Cancer, Trust Warns," Telegraph, December 10, 2016.
7. The Toll of US Navy Training on Wildlife in the North Pacific (For full story, click here)
US Navy training activities are deadly for marine mammals in the North Pacific. In a five-year period, the US Navy has killed, injured, or harassed whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, and other marine wildlife in the North Pacific Ocean nearly twelve million times. A "take" is a type of harm to an animal, with impacts ranging from harassment, resulting in behavioral changes, to death. Over a five-year period, the US Navy has been responsible for more than 11.8 million takes of marine mammal species in four North Pacific areas of operation. The Navy currently does not allow expert civilians or US Fish and Wildlife officials on board their vessels to monitor impacts during training exercises. With little oversight on Navy training activities, the public is left in the dark regarding their environmental impacts, including especially how Navy operations impact fish in the North Pacific and marine life at the bottom of the food chain.
Dahr Jamail, "Navy Allowed to Kill or Injure Nearly 12 Million Whales, Dolphins, Other Marine Mammals in Pacific," Truthout, May 16, 2016.
8. Maternal Mortality a Growing Threat in US (For full story, click here)
Each year, more than 65,000 pregnant women in the United States suffer life-threatening complications, including physical and psychological conditions aggravated by pregnancy, and more than 600 die from pregnancy-related causes. Inadequate health care in rural areas and racial disparities are drivers of this maternal health crisis. Nationally, African American women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes, with rates even higher in parts of the US characterized as "pockets of neglect," such as Georgia, where the 2011 maternal mortality rate of 28.7 per 100,000 live births was nearly double the national average. Across the US, the number of women who are vulnerable to high-risk deliveries is rising. In addition, doctors rarely warn patients of the potential for serious injuries and complications that can occur following birth.
Elizabeth Dawes Gay, "Congressional Briefing Puts U.S. Maternity on Exam Table," Women's eNews, April 15, 2016.
Kiera Butler, "The Scary Truth About Childbirth," Mother Jones, January/February, 2017.
9. DNC Claims Right to Select Presidential Candidate (For full story, click here)
In June 2016, Beck & Lee, a legal firm based in Miami, filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of supporters of Bernie Sanders against the Democratic National Committee and its former chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, alleging that the DNC broke legally-binding neutrality agreements in the Democratic primaries by strategizing to make Hillary Clinton the nominee before a single vote was cast. Transcripts from the hearing on the lawsuit document the DNC's lack of commitment to key articles of its own charter. The DNC attorneys argued that specific language used in the DNC charter - including the terms "impartial" and "evenhanded" - could not be interpreted in a court of law. The class-action lawsuit against the DNC and its chair follow on the heels of the release of 20,000 DNC emails which WikiLeaks first made public in July 2016. The leaked emails show that, "[i]nstead of treating Sanders as a viable candidate for the Democratic ticket, the DNC worked against him and his campaign to ensure Clinton received the nomination."
Michael Sainato, "Wikileaks Proves Primary was Rigged: DNC Undermined Democracy," Observer, July 22, 2016.
Joshua Holland, "What the Leaked E-mails Do and Don't Tell Us About the DNC and Bernie Sanders," Nation, July 29, 2016.
Michael Sainato, "DNC Lawyers Argue DNC Has Right to Pick Candidates in Back Rooms," Observer, May 1, 2017.
10. 2016: A Record Year for Internet Shutdowns (For full story, click here)
Governments around the world shut down Internet access more than fifty times in 2016, Lyndal Rowlands reported for the Inter Press Service. Around the world, governments shutting down Internet access limited freedom of speech, swayed elections, and damaged economies. "In the worst cases," Rowlands wrote, "Internet shutdowns have been associated with human rights violations," as happened in Ethiopia and Uganda. The IPS report quoted Deji Olukotun at digital rights organization Access Now: "What we have found is that Internet shutdowns go hand in hand with atrocities." Access Now documented fifty-three instances in 2016 in which national governments shut down the Internet for all or part of a country, "throttled" access speeds to make the Internet essentially unusable, or blocked specific communication methods. These fifty-three instances represent a sharp uptick in government shutdowns of the Internet. Many countries intentionally blacked out Internet access during elections and to quell protest.
Devin Coldewey, "Study Estimates Cost of Last Year's Internet Shutdowns at $2.4 Billion," TechCrunch, October 24, 2016.
Kevin Collier, "Governments Loved to Shut Down the Internet in 2016 - Here's Where," Vocativ, December 23, 2016.
Lyndal Rowlands, "More Than 50 Internet Shutdowns in 2016," Inter Press Service, Dec. 30, 2016.
More of the Top 25 Media Censorship Stories of 2017
11. Law Enforcement Surveillance of Phone Records (For full story, click here)
Law enforcement agencies have been secretly collecting telephone records since 1987 under a program known as Hemisphere. The Hemisphere database contains "trillions" of domestic and international phone call records, and AT&T "adds roughly four billion phone records" each day, including calls from non-AT&T customers "that pass through the company's switches." The collected data allows the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other law enforcement agencies to "dynamically map people's social networks and physical locations."
12. US Quietly Established New "Anti-Propaganda" Center (For full story, click here)
On December 23, 2016, then-president Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The 2017 NDAA included a provision to create a new federal center with "sweeping" surveillance powers to counter foreign "propaganda and disinformation." The imprecise wording of the NDAA "could be interpreted as targeting information and communications critical of the U.S. government."
13. Right-Wing Money Promotes Model Legislation to Restrict Free Speech On University Campuses (For full story, click here)
The right-wing Goldwater Institute, which is funded by conservatives including Charles Koch and the Mercer family, has proposed model legislation that seeks to quell student dissent in favor of guest speakers who attempt to discredit climate change, oppose LGBTQ rights, and espouse hate speech. The Goldwater Institute's "Campus Free Speech Act" has been adapted in proposed legislation in many states.
14. Judges Across US Using Racially Biased Software to Assess Defendants' Risk of Committing Future Crimes (For full story, click here)
Courtrooms across the country use algorithmically-generated scores, known as risk assessments, to unofficially inform judges' sentencing decisions. [A 2016 study] found significant racial disparities. "The formula was particularly likely to falsely flag black defendants as future criminals," ProPublica reported.
15. Shell Understood Climate Change As Early As 1991—and Ignored It (Full story here)
In 1991, Shell Oil Company produced and distributed a twenty-eight-minute documentary titled Climate of Concern. The film addressed potentially drastic consequences of climate change. Instead of trying to combat climate change as the company's own documentary urged, Shell's actions since 1991 have often contributed to increasing the negative impact of climate change.
16. "Resilient" Indian Communities Struggle to Cope with Impacts of Climate Change (For full story, click here)
The Sundarbans are a vast mangrove delta that connects India and Bangladesh. Residents of islands in the Sundarbans are "struggling to cope" with rising seas, erratic weather patterns, severe floods, heavy rainfall, and intense cyclones that are the consequences of global climate change. Several islands in the Sundarbans have already been completely submerged by rising sea levels.
17. Young Plaintiffs Invoke Constitutional Grounds for Climate Protection (Full story here)
In September 2015, twenty-one plaintiffs, aged eight to nineteen, brought a lawsuit against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry to the US Federal District Court. The case, Juliana v. United States, argued that the federal government and the fossil fuel industry have knowingly endangered the plaintiffs by promoting the burning of fossil fuels, and that this violates their constitutional and public trust rights. By denying a motion to dismiss, the court upheld the youth Plaintiffs' claims.
18. Rise in Number of Transgender People Murdered (For full story, click here)
In 2015 FBI homicide data documented 15,696 murders. If in 2015 all Americans had the same risk of murder as young black trans women, there would have been 120,087 murders. Due to underreporting and misidentification the actual trans murder rate is likely "much higher." Official records typically lack the means to represent transgender people. Cases of homicide of transgender people are not only undercounted, they are also less likely to be solved and prosecuted.
19. Inmates and Activists Protest Chemical Weapons in US Prisons and Jails (Full story here)
Chemical weapons, including several types of tear gas, are being used against prisoners in the United States, despite the fact that the international Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997 bans their use in warfare. Since 2013, the War Resisters League has been documenting the use of tear gas in prisons. Seeking to end the use of tear gas in US prisons and jails, activists argue that "the deployment of chemical weapons of any kind against imprisoned people constitutes militarization and torture."
20. Seattle Activist Group Leads First Successful Campaign to Defund Police (Full story here)
In September 2016 the Block the Bunker campaign in Seattle was the first to persuade US city officials to divest from police funding and allocate more tax dollars for community services. In summer 2016, a coalition of antiracist grassroots organizers protested the city's plans to spend nearly $150 million on a new police station. In September, the mayor shelved the plans and an additional $29 million was added to the affordable housing budget.
21. Fossil Fuel Industry "Colonizing" US Universities (Full story here)
Fossil fuel interests dominate energy and climate policy research at the nation's most prominent universities, including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and the University of California, Berkeley. "The very experts we assume to be objective, and the very centers of research we assume to be independent," [researchers] Benjamin Franta and Geoffrey Supran wrote, "are connected with the very industry the public believes they are objectively studying. Moreover, these connections are often kept hidden."
22. Lawsuit Against Illinois Department of Corrections Exposes Militarization of Law Enforcement Inside Prisons (For full story, click here)
A judge has approved a 2015 lawsuit against 232 Illinois Department of Corrections officers to proceed to the discovery phase. The class-action suit, Ross v. Gossett, alleges that the "Orange Crush" tactical team used excessive force, including physical and sexual abuse, when it conducted mass shakedowns in the spring of 2014.
23. Facebook Buys Sensitive User Data to Offer Marketers Targeted Advertising (Story here)
Since 2012, Facebook has been buying sensitive data about users' offline lives from data brokers and combining this information with the online data it collects in order to sell this information to advertisers who seek to target specific types of Facebook users for their products and services.
24. Eight Use of Force Policies to Prevent Killings by Police (For full story, click here)
Killings by police are not inevitable or difficult to prevent, according to a September 2016 study by Campaign Zero. Campaign Zero identified eight guidelines, restricting when and how police officers should use force, [and] found that implementing all eight guidelines would result in a 54 percent reduction in police killings.
25. Juvenile Court Fees Punish Children for their Families' Poverty (For full story, click here)
Low-income children across the US are being imprisoned when they or their families cannot afford to pay court fees. Aside from court costs, low-income children also face fees for probation, health tests, care, and other services in juvenile facilities.
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