Since its inception in 2000, The Epoch Times has risen in both popularity and prominence. While still widely unknown and unremarkable to the general public, especially when compared to media industry staples like FOX and CNN, The Epoch Times garners a lot of influence in right-wing communities, a trend common in alternative media. Studies have shown that 26% of prominent alternative social media accounts have right-wing appeals.
Source: Pew Research
Since its inception, The Epoch Times has been involved in a continuous positive campaign in support of Republican politician Donald Trump. The Epoch Times came under fire from many for what many deemed to be partially fueling the COVID-19 skeptic movement and the support of fringe right-wing conspiracies. Those in support, however, argue they are simply reporting on differing worldviews. So is The Epoch Times Biased, or are they able to strike a balance between representing different opinions and unjustly promoting the interests of one ideology over all others?
How Does Biasly Rate News Sources?
Biasly’s algorithms produce bias ratings to help provide multiple perspectives on given articles. Biasly has analyzed 200,000+ news articles from more than 3,200 news sources through our A.I. technology and team of political analysts to find the most factual, unbiased news stories.
Biasly determines the degree of political bias in news sources by using Biasly’s Bias Meter Rating, in which Biasly’s team analyzes media sources’ reliability and bias and produces three scores, a Reliability Score that measures the accuracy of media sources; an A.I. Bias Score, evaluated by A.I.; and an Analyst Bias Score evaluated by political analysts. These scores are rated based on seven rating metrics including Tone, Tendency, Diction, Author Check, Selection/Omission, Expediency Bias, and Accuracy. These metrics help our analysts to determine the political attitude of the article.
Our A.I. machine-learning system employs natural language processing and entity-specific sentiment analysis to examine individual articles and determine their bias levels. By analyzing the key terms in an article such as policies, bias phrases, political terminologies, politicians, and their nicknames, the algorithms can rate the attitude of the text. Bias scores range from -100% and 100%, with higher negative scores being more liberal and higher positive scores being more conservative, and 0% being neutral.
So is The Epoch Times Politically Biased?
While The Epoch Times has faced many accusations over the years of being a political mouthpiece to the far-right, do these accusations really have any merit?
The Epoch Times was given an A.I. bias score of 48 percent, making it moderately conservative, and an analyst bias score of 11 percent, or somewhat conservative. Author bias was given a rating of 19 percent, or somewhat conservative as well. In terms of policy leanings, The Epoch Times was given a score of 45 percent, or moderately conservative. This suggests an overall conservative-leaning bias with a tendency to lean more conservative when discussing and reporting on policy.
These ratings are compiled through an analysis and averaging of bias within articles published solely on The Epoch Times website.
The ratings provided by Biasly are supported by those of other third-party bias assessment services like Media Bias/Fact Check. Media Bias/Fact Check rated The Epoch Times similarly, giving it a rating of right which they define as “a moderate conservative bias.”
Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to discuss bias. Bias is a natural function of humans, and we can express it both consciously and unconsciously. Bias is one of the most fundamental forms of pattern recognition in humans. This isn’t to lower the bar and say that “all things are biased,” but to explain the process in which we may come to trust certain news organizations that display patterns of coverage.
Companies, in the pursuit of gaining capital, have incentives to gather and retain audiences and to encourage them to buy subscription plans and recommend their friends do as well. These audience members in turn have their own biases and tend to seek out stories that support what they believe and don’t support what they don’t believe. This in turn incentivizes media companies to lean farther and farther in whatever direction the majority of their viewers lean to keep them coming back. This creates a feedback loop where audiences are politicized and thus seek out and encourage media to produce more political sources which politicize more people, garnering more support for the ideology and so on. This issue becomes especially salient in extremely liberal and extremely conservative media.
Now that we’ve gone where The Epoch Times stands in terms of bias more generally. Let’s take a deeper look at when and how bias might present itself in an article from The Epoch Times.
Analyzing the Bias in Epoch Times Articles
The Epoch Times received just under 30 million total visitors in January of 2023 and is ranked 50th in the News & Media Publishers category within the United States. This visitor count is especially significant considering the size of The Epoch Times compared to larger media staples like ABC News, which though ranked high in 33rd, only received around 8 million more visitors in the same month. That said, despite its more alternative reputation The Epoch Times is able to produce a staggering amount of articles, begging the question of whether these articles are the product of factual reporting or carefully crafted propaganda.
To answer this question, let’s take a closer look at an article titled “Biden’s Budget ‘Falls’ Short on Combating Illegal Immigration: Top Democrat,” reporting on the implication of President Joe Biden’s Budget on immigration.
If we look at Biasly’s breakdown of the article we can see it was given a rating of 56 percent, making it very conservative. If we look further into Biasly’s analysis we can see that a 46 percent, conservative, policy leaning was found and that politician portrayals within the article were given a rating of 78 percent, negative.
We can see this bias begin to appear within the opening paragraph of the article:
“Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, expressed concern on April 18 that President Joe Biden’s proposed budget “falls short” of what’s needed to combat illegal immigration along the southern border.”
Here, the author introduces the audience to the issue by describing Joe Biden’s proposed budget as one that “falls short.” The choice to include this quote, and to use it when introducing the audience to the issue suggests an intent on the author’s part to bias the reader against the actions of Joe Biden. The article uses a quote from a self-described “more conservative Democrat” as evidence to support this point, making use of selection bias here to create the image that Democrats are against Joe Biden’s proposed budget as well.
Throughout the rest of the article, quotes from Rep. Cuellar are used to argue against Biden’s proposed budget, and it is notable that these are the only direct quotes provided. Through the conscious leaving out of any quotes, or facts from those in favor of the proposed budget, this article engages in a form of omission bias. Now let’s examine how this article concludes:
“Earlier, a top CBP chief acknowledged that DHS does not have operational control of the border, undercutting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s claims to the contrary.”
While arguments made by those in favor of Biden’s proposed budget are referenced here, it is important to note that no detail, nor supporting evidence is provided. While it is said that the Department of Homeland Security claims the DHS has operational control of the border no evidence or direct quotes are provided to the reader and the reader is simply told that those claims have been disputed. It is this careful selection and omission of quotes throughout this article that allowed for the creation of a bias against Biden’s proposed budget.
Our analysis of the sentiments present within the article found mostly negative sentiments towards border control, some negative and positive sentiments towards ICE, positive sentiment towards criminal justice, and positive sentiment towards abortion and the border wall respectively. Additionally, negative sentiments towards Joe Biden were found as well as negative sentiments towards Alejandro Mayorkas and some towards Henry Cyeller himself.
Overall, these measures suggest that while some small aspects favoring liberal ideologies were present, sentiments by and large supported conservative ideologies, with the negative sentiments towards Joe Biden and positive sentiments towards the border wall being the most obvious indicators of this. This falls in line with our analysis and rating of The Epoch Times as a company with a tendency to lean conservative in its biases.
How Biased is The Epoch Times Opinion Section?
Before we move forward in our analysis, let’s talk about the distinction between opinion versus reporting. Reporting is the neutral act of conveying information to an audience without advocating for any particular opinion yourself. Reporting uses a neutral tone and focuses on provable facts, events, and quotes from different parties involved. Opinion-based articles, on the other hand, make use of a more pointed tone to express the feelings, thoughts, and perspectives of the author regarding the situation being reported on.
Let’s take a look at a passage from an opinion piece released by The Epoch Times titled “Biden Announces Four More Years of Corruption, Coercion, and Incompetence”:
“The best efforts of the propaganda media and the corrupt leadership of the Department of Justice have been spent protecting Hunter Biden, the President’s son. Every week we learn more about the Biden family influence peddling with foreign billionaires and governments, which goes back to when Joe Biden was vice president. As more details about the flow of money come out, it is clear that President Biden is among the most corrupt presidents in American history.”
This passage serves as a prime example of the ways opinion-based articles use tone and word choice to prioritize the author’s personal feelings and opinions on a subject over factual reporting. In this passage, words like “corrupt” and “influence peddling” are used to describe the actions taken by the Department of Justice and the Biden family. The use of pointed emotional language to attack people and viewpoints that oppose the author’s are staples of the opinion piece and lead to a great degree of bias within the article.
Another common way bias manifests itself within an opinion piece is through a failure to provide credible sources to support the claims made. We can see this clearly in the passage above where several claims are made and not a single source provided. First, when the author calls the leadership of the Department of Justice and President Biden himself corrupt, without citing any evidence of this corruption to support these accusations. Then again, when the author accuses the Biden family of “peddling with foreign billionaires,” a fact again not supported with any sort of credible evidence. Both this exclusion of evidence to support the claims made and the use of pointed emotional language serve to separate opinion pieces from factual articles in terms of their levels of bias.
Who owns The Epoch Times?
The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by John Tang and others in affiliation with the Falun Gong new religious movement. The Falun Gong new religious movement was founded in China in the 1980s and encourages believers, among other things, to abandon lust, greed, and other worldly attachments. The movement grew in popularity in China before being labeled a cult by Beijing and suppressed.
Aside from his association with the Falun Gong, not much is known about John Tang or his personal political beliefs, however, throughout its publication, The Epoch Times has shown support for right leaning politics and for Republican former president Donald Trump specifically. Additionally, it’s important to note that like other online media, The Epoch Times does run ads and allow for user subscriptions.
Evaluating and Uncovering Bias in Your Own Lives
It can often be difficult to tell if the news you watch is biased. If you have settled on a news channel, it’s usually because you trust the information you are gaining. Unfortunately, many trust the information they are hearing because it confirms what they already believe. This is referred to as “confirmation bias.” It is important to challenge your beliefs and get third-party verification that what you are hearing is the full story. This is why we recommend using Biasly to compare different news stories side-by-side using our bias ratings to figure out what both sides think of a political issue.
The Epoch Times received a final Biasly political bias rating of 48 percent, marking it moderately conservative. That said, bias can vary widely even between articles published by the same source, or the same author. Conservative media is capable of producing center and liberal-leaning articles and vice versa, which is why it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of bias no matter the source. More factual articles, for example, often have less bias than talk shows or opinion pieces that call for more subjectivity inherently. Finally, while every news source has some degree of bias, some are inherently more centrist than others, and you should always be sure to check out Biasly’s political leaning score at Biasly.com if you’re unsure about the bias of any particular source.