Hackers Stole Data from Whom? An Example of Media Bias

This story’s headline reports, “Hackers Stole Data From More Than 100,000 Taxpayers, IRS Says.” The headline is wrong. Hackers stole data from the IRS, not from taxpayers. This is an example of the subtle kind of media bias that minimizes government shortcomings, in this case by pointing the finger at taxpayers. This particular headline was reported by NPR.

The story reports that the hackers gained access to taxpayer accounts through the Get Transcript online service. Again, notice the use of language. The story does not report that hackers gained access to IRS computers. It said they gained access to taxpayer accounts, as if they were gaining access to something owned by taxpayers rather than something owned by government.

As any taxpayer knows, the government mandates that taxpayers not only pay their taxes but also forces taxpayers to turn over their personal information. Government acquires this information by force, and then when the information the government has taken by force is stolen from them, the media incorrectly reports that it was stolen from the taxpayers who were forced to turn it over to their government.

If any information was actually stolen from taxpayers in this incident, it was stolen by the IRS when taxpayers were forced by their government to give it up. This Orwellian article falsely reports that information was stolen from taxpayers, when it was actually stolen from government.

Randall G. Holcombe is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, and author of the Independent Institute book Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History.
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