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Big Tech, a Conservative Provocateur and the Fight Over Disinformation

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Over a series of conversations, Mr. Brown answered detailed questions about his business and Liftable’s efforts to navigate social media’s fast-changing landscape. “Our goal is to show you who we are and be transparent,” he said. “We haven’t done this before, so we’re nervous.”

While Facebook’s algorithm changes had knocked around his business, Mr. Brown acknowledged, most of them were about “protecting the user — and you know, we support that.”

His father had little involvement with the company day to day, Mr. Brown said, and served mostly as a sounding board on business and management issues. When asked whether Liftable had anything in common with his father’s PACs, Mr. Brown demurred.

“I would never want to do what he did,” Mr. Brown said. “When you make an ad or something, you are — your whole goal is to just convince someone of something, right? I mean, our goal is not that. Our No. 1 goal is to inform — truthfully.”

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Yet the reborn Western Journal functions almost like a news outlet in reverse. In interviews, the website’s editors spoke often about narratives — narratives in the mainstream media, narratives they wanted to counter, narratives they were seeking. Each workday, a small team of editors, known as “story finders,” scours social media data and newswires. “They’re looking for information, narratives that will inform and equip and motivate our audience,” said Shaun Hair, a former litigator who is The Western Journal’s executive editor.

The message comes first, then facts carefully selected to support it. Only after editors decide the framing of a story, and write the headline, is it handed off to a pool of contract writers, most working remotely. Deadlines are tight: A typical story must be filed within 30 minutes.

Western Journal editors stressed that headlines and frames were often adjusted later to ensure accuracy, and that writers were encouraged to pitch ideas. But as with stories from some other ideological media outlets, those from Western Journal often feel tailored to the daily political needs of one faction. Mr. Brown describes the intended audience as the “forgotten people” of heartland America — a staple of Mr. Trump’s speeches — and The Western Journal’s narratives often echo and amplify those spun by the president.



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