Politics: Fake news prospers

by Judy Ferro

Why did the man take an assault rifle to the pizza parlor?

To wipe out Hillary Clinton’s child trafficking ring.

No, it’s not funny. It’s fact. The man had read about children being sexually used and was determined to stop it.

He’d probably taken on Hillary’s hit squad also if someone had posted its location. If you haven’t heard that Hillary has had six to ten people murdered, you aren’t a Facebook friend of a dear cousin of mine.

Dear cousin is a faithful Christian and a strong Bernie supporter. She is also open and honest. My mom always said to feel sorry for those who told lies, because they can’t trust anyone. Today, being trusting can wipe out your computer or your bank account.

I was proud of being wary until I ran across a CNN item, “Five stunning fake news stories that reached millions”—and realized I’d believed two of them. Both had been posted on sites with names and content mimicking established media.

In March a fake New York Times site said that Elizabeth Warren had endorsed Bernie Sanders. It made sense—they are both outspoken critics of our government’s support of corporations against investors, workers, and customers. I didn’t suspect I’d been had until Warren started speaking at Hillary rallies.

Then, in April, a fake ABC News site said the National Basketball Association was pulling its All-Star Game out of North Carolina because of the new anti-gay laws being implemented there. According to the CNN article, this story reached 2.4 million people. In July the NBA did pull the game.

I had spotted only one of the five stories as fake—one that claimed that crates of ballots already filled out for Clinton had been found in a warehouse.

Sensing the story was false, I went to snopes.com and learned that the photo actually showed crates of empty ballots being delivered before a 2015 election in England. Moreover, the website—Christian Times Newspaper—was not connected to the long-established Christian Times newspaper and had published “false stories reporting that Donald Trump was removed from primary ballots,…that an African-American Trump supporter was killed in Chicago, and that the 4th of July had been cancelled due to fears of terrorism.”

Not surprisingly, I had acted in accordance with Adam Benforado’s premise in his book Unfair: I had believed what fit my current beliefs and rejected what didn’t. His concern is with judges and juries; mine is with voters.

It made sense that some low-lifes would make up stories about candidates they oppose. Harder to explain, however, are the stories about the NBA and the Fourth of July.

One of the creators of multiple fake news sites explained that in an interview: he wrote lies about Clinton because they paid well.

According to some bloggers, 50,000 unique viewers a month and good Google ranking can translate into $50,000 a year in ad revenue. This man said his anti-Clinton items weren’t meant to affect the election; they just got the most shares—and the most dollars.

Google says it is banning fake news sites from using its online advertising services. Facebook users will soon be able to report “fake news” just as they do “spam.” If the FB team confirms, anyone who tries to share the item will get a notice that the content is false.

This will help, but it is not enough. Democracy depends on an informed citizenry. Fake news attacks the foundation of our country. Please, resolve to be wary and question often this coming year.

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