MINOT, N.D. — "Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?"
Those are the words of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoken at a recent congressional hearing featuring the heads of internet giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter. It was that last company's CEO, Jack Dorsey, who was the target of Cruz's ire.
Whatever your opinion of Cruz, or congressional kabuki theater generally, he has a point.
Twitter, specifically, decided for its millions and millions of readers that a recent New York Post story about the questionable business dealings of presidential candidate Joe Biden's family shouldn't be read. Twitter and Facebook went to extraordinary lengths to suppress the story, claiming variously that it wasn't reliable or based on hacked information.
Since when do we need these tech giants to protect us from journalism?
We never asked them to do that, but they're doing it anyway, and as for Cruz's who-put-you-in-charge inquiry, the answer is us.
We gave them this power.
But we can take it back. Those tech giants may stand astride vast swaths of the internet, making them seem almost unavoidable at times, but it is possible to access news and information about the word without relying on their algorithms or editorial choices to effectively censor what we see.
As you might imagine, I read a lot of news, but I don't get it from Facebook or Twitter. I don't pay much attention to those platforms at all.
I use a technology called RSS feeds to follow the topics and publications I'm interested in. I subscribe to these free feeds, and they bring all the news I want to read to one convenient place for me without any filtering.
You can do it too. It requires a little setting up, but letting Facebook and Twitter do that work for us is how we got into this mess.
The first thing you need to do is find a feed reader. You have a lot of choices. Most of them are cloud-based these days, meaning you log into a website through a browser and read your news that way. I use a service called Feedly, myself, but you can explore others to see what works for you.
Once you have your reader picked out, you start curating a list of sources you'd like to read. They aren't advertised well, but most news-style websites publish an RSS feed.
Our company, Forum Communications, publishes them, and you can find the link at the bottom of our pages. Or you can punch the URL of the news site you want to follow into a reader like Feedly and they'll find the RSS link for you.
Once you have your list of sources created, start reading, confident that the only person involved in filtering what you're reading is you.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.