By Daniel Doan | Editor in Chief
Fake news websites intentionally publish false information while claiming to be real news sites in an effort to mislead their readers.
While fake news has been around for a while, it didn’t truly become an issue until the 2016 U.S presidential election. During that time, both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s supporters used fake news as political weapons and, as a result, the definition of fake news became more vague. Since then, this issue has blown up, with several popular news shows and papers reporting false information as truth.
One significant example is when Marco Chacon created the fake news site, RealTrueNews, where he continues to publish stories about Clinton, Trump, and other political figures. One story portrayed Clinton explaining “bronies” (male fans of My Little Pony) to several Goldman Sachs bankers, a story that was later denied by Clinton staffers and spokespeople. However, Chacon didn’t create this site to purposely mislead the nation, he did it to mislead his friends by showing them their gullibility. Unfortunately, it completely backfired when Fox News’ The Kelly File reported the story as truth, spreading the misinformation to their 2.51 million viewers.
Another example is when the Clinton campaign was said to be part of child sex ring operating out of Comet Ping Pong, a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Several other businesses were dragged into the narrative, like Bradley Graham’s co-owned Politics and Prose and Abdel Hammad’s pizzeria’s, Best Pizza, whose sign was thought to vaguely look like a symbol used by pedophiles. Not only did all the business owners receive hourly death threats, but a gunman, Edgar Welch, wielding an assault rifle, came to the Comet Ping Pong looking for children supposedly caught in the sex ring. He peacefully surrendered when he found no evidence that there was a sex ring.
This is obviously a huge problem, but there is another fake news issue that is just as significant, if not more so – the omission of facts and information presented by news stations. Like fake news sites, these stations mislead their audiences, but they do it by only telling one side, one perspective of a story instead of making up the information.
One of the latest examples of biased reporting concerned Trump and his recent immigration ban from the countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. While these countries may have a primarily Muslim population, they are also countries with ties to terrorism. This wasn’t a Muslim ban, it was an immigration ban that was designed to protect the American people from possible radical terrorists.
Some counterarguments point out that Trump didn’t ban immigration from countries he does business with and that most of these people are actually refugees that need asylum for their own and their families’ safety. The countries banned are the same countries named in Obama’s 2011 policy, and more can still be added. As for the refugees, there is no good option at the moment. They are either stuck in the country they were trying to escape from or they’re stuck in camps awaiting visas.
With so much news out there, it can be hard to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake, so here are some tips for identifying fake news stories and sites. If a website ends in “lo” (for example, Newslo) or has a strange domain name (“.com.co”, for example), check out other sites to confirm what is being reported because chances are that they have either twisted the truth or are reporting outright falsehoods. In addition, readers should also do this if a story doesn’t have byline (author), because that could signal that the information is suspicious.
Though there are many other ways to check out the truthfulness of a story or website, readers should be cautious if the story brings out extreme emotions, because it could be manipulating readers to make a quick and thoughtless, even dangerous, decision.
As for heavily biased news, sites like Buzzfeed, or radio/TV programs like The Rush Limbaugh Show, can be politically polarizing and twist the truth to where it achieves their desire to draw the reader in and to get them to spread prejudiced misinformation.
Another source of misinformation is the seemingly endless supply of tweets coming from various sources. President Trump takes to Twitter like a fish to water and continuously uses words like “everyone” and “huge” in his tweets. One example is when he tweeted about having the largest inauguration in presidential history, and with live online and physical viewers, maybe he did, but he certainly didn’t have the largest physical number of people in attendance in D.C. Twitter followers should take tweets into consideration because many people simply tweets what they hear, which may be out of context.
We all have a duty to share information responsibly, because once its out in the world, it can never be taken back or erased.