Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fake News

      Fake News is hardly a news story, but it has taken on new life with the Presidential Election and the insinuation of outside interference in the American process of democracy and the inability of the analysts to understand what happened.  The results defy their comprehension.
     What is different in this election is the enormous role that social media played.  According to Will Oremus of Slate in his article, The Real Problem Behind the Fake News: Facebook is under fire for spreading falsehoods. But it’s getting away with a bigger lie.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president, Facebook has taken justifiable heat for its role in spreading misinformation and propaganda about the candidates. In particular, its news feed algorithm fueled a cottage industry of fake and intentionally misleading “news” that skewed heavily anti–Hillary Clinton and pro-Trump, according to a BuzzFeed analysis. These falsehoods attracted far more user engagement, on average, than true stories from the same outlets and drowned out earnest attempts by dedicated fact-checking sites such as Snopes to debunk them.

 The problem is exacerbated by general distrust of the media as reported in a Gallup poll, Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low by Art Swift.
Americans' trust and confidence in the mass media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly" has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year. Gallup began asking this question in 1972, and on a yearly basis since 1997. Over the history of the entire trend, Americans' trust and confidence hit its highest point in 1976, at 72%,
The influence of social media such as Facebook for news source is astounding. In the Wall Street Journal article by Sue Shellenbarger,  Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds.
By age 18, 88% of young adults regularly get news from Facebook and other social media, according to a 2015 study of 1,045 adults ages 18 to 34 by the Media Insight Project.
It's been our experience that a large percentage of adults also get their news from social media which is frequently passed along on Facebook, email, and text messages.  We have redirected the authors of the email to the credible debugging website such as with two outcomes: they stop sending us their crap or they accuse us of being "spoil sports."

But according to Snopes Managing Editor Brooke Binkowski, Fake news is not the problem.  The problem is failing media. She writes
The misinformation crisis stems from something more pernicious. In the past, the sources of accurate information were recognizable enough that phony news was relatively easy for a discerning reader to identify and discredit. The problem is that the public has lost faith in the media broadly — therefore no media outlet is considered credible any longer. The reasons are familiar: as the business of news has grown tougher, many outlets have been stripped of the resources they need for journalists to do their jobs correctly.
She adds,
When you’re on your fifth story of the day and there’s no editor because the editor’s been fired and there’s no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don’t have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up.
     We think the problem is much deeper than that.  Readers have become lazy and are only interested in pursuing information that reinforces their own biases.

       Marco Chacon reports on Wikipedia how he created the fake news website called RealTrueNews to show his alt-right friends "how ridiculous" their gullibility was for such websites. In one of the stories Chacon wrote a fake transcript for Hillary Clinton's leaked speeches in which Clinton explains bronies to Goldman Sachs bankers. He was shocked when his fake article was attributed as factual by Fox News and he heard his own creation on The Kelly File hosted by Megyn Kelly. 

      It's our opinion there is a going market for Fake News. Professor Melissa Zimdars at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled a list of “fake, false, or regularly misleading websites” that purposefully publish fake information or are otherwise entirely unreliable.

     The list, which has since been removed due to threats and harassment Zimdars says she received, also included sites that “may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information” or “sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions.”
The list included both left- and right-wing publications, and it is regularly updated or amended. Here is how Zimdars has categorized them:

     “CATEGORY 1: Below is a list of fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits. These websites are categorized with the number 1 next to them.

     “CATEGORY 2: Some websites on this list may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information, and they are marked with a 2.

     “CATEGORY 3: Other websites on this list sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions, and they are marked with a 3.

     “CATEGORY 4: Other sources on this list are purposefully fake with the intent of satire/comedy, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news. I’m including them here, for now, because 1.) they have the potential to perpetuate misinformation based on different audience (mis)interpretations and 2.) to make sure anyone who reads a story by The Onion, for example, understands its purpose. If you think this is unnecessary, please see Literally Unbelievable.”

     Below is the complete list, which Zimdars originally published under a Creative Commons license that allows publishers to freely reprint the list. Keep in mind: Not all of these sites are intentionally spreading fake news, so pay attention to the rating.
  1. (2,3)
  2. (1)
  4. (2, 3)
  7. (1)
  8. The Free Thought Project (3)
  10. (1)
  12. Politicalo (1)
  13. (2, 3)
  14. PoliticusUSA
  15. Addicting Info (3)
  18. (1)
  21. (3)
  23. (includes 4)
  24. Associated Media Coverage
  26. ProjectVeritas
  28. Huzlers (4)
  29. Being Liberal
  30. IfYouOnlyNews
  31. React 365
  33. Indecision Forever (1)
  36. (1, 4)
  37. Bipartisan Report (3)
  38. InfoWars (1, 2)
  40. BizPac Review
  42. Red State (3)
  43. Blue Nation Review (2,3)
  45. Reductress (4)
  46. Breitbart (2, 3)
  48. (1, 4)
  49. Call the Cops (4)
  51. Satira Tribune
  52. Cap News  (4)
  54. (4)
  55. (4)
  56. Liberal America
  57. The Blaze
  60. The Free Thought Project (3)
  61. (1)
  62. LibertyUnyielding
  63. Borowitz Report (4)
  64. (4)
  66. The Onion (4)
  67. (2)
  68. LMR/
  69. The Other 98% (3)
  70. CollectiveEvolution (3)
  71. (1)
  72. The Reporterz
  73. (2)
  74. (1)
  75. The Stately Harold
  76. (2)
  77. (1)
  79. ConspiracyWire ( (2)
  80. (1)
  82. (2)
  83. Naha Daily (4)
  86. National Report
  88. (1)
  90. (1)
  92. (3)
  94. NC Scooper
  97. NCT (New Century Times)
  98. News Examiner
  99. USA Supreme
  100. Daily Wire
  101. (1)
  102. US.Blasting.News
  104. (1)
  105. US Uncut (3)
  106. (1)
  107. Newslo (1, 4)
  110. (1, 4)
  112. Newswatch 28
  114. (1)
  115. Newswatch 33
  116. Winning Democrats
  117. (4)
  122. World Net Daily
  124. Now8News
  125. World News Daily Report (4)
  126. Empire Herald
  129. Empire News (1)
  130. Occupy Democrats (3)
  131. ZeroHedge
     In addition to the list, Zimdars has created a tip sheet for news onsumers so that we all might better decipher what's real, what's fake, and what's simply misleading in ways that have nothing to do with whether you agree with a particular article or not:
  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo (above). These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).
  • Watch out for websites that end in “” as they are often fake versions of real news sources  
  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
  • Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs). 
  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
  • Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources. 
  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
  • It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

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