The New York Times this week published an analysis of the effects of Facebook on the election, coming to the conclusion that the proliferation of fake news stories — the Pope endorsing Trump, Hillary’s indictment and others of that ilk — had an effect on the outcome.
The media giants swung into action, Google tweaking its algorithm to prioritize real news sites like this one and Facebook changing its advertising policy to crack down on fake sites posing as actual news entities.
The problem with Facebook came in June, when it began throttling news sites and others that post links to outside sites in an effort to get them to pay to boost their posts. I know this because it happened to us.
Then, in November, it was discovered that a town in Macedonia called Veles had turned fake news into a cottage industry. The town, which was once known for its porcelain, is home base for hundreds of sites that have been spewing fake Trump news since April, with headlines like “Hillary Clinton In 2013: ‘I Would Like To See People Like Donald Trump Run For Office,’” and a story about Hillary Clinton being indicted under the hed: “Your Prayers Have Been Answered.”
It’s clear that many Americans don’t know the difference between an article printed in, say, the New York Times, and something on Breitbart.com or OccupyDemocrats.com, just as it’s clear that confirmation bias — or the willingness to believe in something you already believe— rules the day.
It’s becoming more difficult to tell the difference: One of the biggest fake news sites is abcnews.com.co, which today has a story about President Obama signing an executive order for a revote of the 2016 election.
Here’s a pro tip: Get your news from real sources like daily newspapers— the big ones like the Times and the Washington Post are still quite excellent — and real journalists like the ones under employ at Triad City Beat.
If you see a headline that seems outrageous, check it out before posting it to all your friends on Facebook. And if you’re still entrenched in the comment wars, be sure that you’re fighting with real ammunition instead of blanks.