News and Commentary

6 Things You Need To Know About ‘Fake News’

Since Donald Trump’s stunning upset over Hillary Clinton in the general election, the Left has been searching for someone or something to blame. One of the more popular culprits is “fake news,” which the Left and many in the media elite are arguing deceived Americans—whom they clearly believe to be too stupid to discern between what’s real and what’s fake.

The Washington Post added to that narrative with a Sunday piece chronicling two people who run a website called who basically admitted they push out news stories they don’t fully believe in with over-sensationalized headlines that vastly exaggerate the actual content of the story to get clicks. They use conspiracy-laden Info Wars as a blueprint, and they even refer to themselves as the “new yellow journalists.”

Clearly, the Washington Post wanted their readers to think that—some website that most people have never even heard of—is reflective of all conservative news sites, and that’s how Trump got elected.

Here are six things you need to know about “fake news.”

1. Designating a site as “fake news” can be subjective. The Daily Wire‘s Frank Camp asks a very important question regarding fake news: “Who decides what is and is not fake or misleading?”

“In the case of social media, that would be Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other large platforms,” Camp wrote “If these websites intend to purge their feeds of alleged fake news, it will be those at the helm who have the final say regarding what constitutes ‘fake.’ This is dangerous. Recent reports have suggested that Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have all partaken in the censoring of conservative opinion in the past.”

In other words, self-appointed arbiters of what is and isn’t “real news” could deem certain websites as “fake” simply because it run counters to their viewpoint.

2. A leftist professor put together a list of “fake news” websites that included—shocker—basically only conservative sites. One of them was the Daily Wire. The list, created by Melissa Zimdars, associate communications professor at Merrimack College, listed the Daily Wire, The Blaze, Independent Journal Review and Red State as “fake,” putting them in the same category as Info Wars and The Onion.

But apparently, Zimdars didn’t mean that every news site on that list as fake, according to an interview she did with USA Today:

I think it’s really important to note that on this document I created, there’s four different kinds of sources, and so a lot of the problem, and why I’m actually personally considering removing the document temporarily, is because I don’t think people are actually reading it when they’re sharing it. And I’m worried that it might be perpetuating misinformation when that’s what it’s supposed to be trying to help.

Because that list identifies some fake news sites, some that may be misleading or unreliable that do report sometimes on actual events to various degrees to truthiness.

Then there are sites that generally do okay reporting on stuff, but they rely on clickbait-style Facebook descriptions or headlines to encourage circulation, so sometimes those headlines don’t match with the articles’ content, and that can lead to misinformation.

And then the last is just satirical websites that some people take literally. The idea there is that if you’re on The Onion and really mad about what you’re reading, maybe read some more, because this is a satirical website.

Problem is, it’s being reported that the list is “fake news,” and it’s clearly a slanted list. David Harsanyi at The Federalist points out that if sites like IJ Review and The Blaze are fake, then “so are Vox, The Huffington Post, and Daily Kos.” The Daily Wire‘s John Nolte also notes that “Raw Story, Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post” should also be on that list.

Zimdars was asked about why the uber left-wing Daily Kos was not included on her list and she gave a mealy-mouthed answer:

Trying to make it comprehensive is virtually impossible, just as a person. For example, I have an unpublished document of other suggestions I’ve gotten that is 300 sources long. And people have been emailing me saying that CNN and the New York Times and all of these publications sometimes use clickbait and they should be on there too.

So the reason that there’s sites missing right now is kind of pressing “pause” to figure out the best way to keep expanding this and to classify it, especially as it’s receiving wider views.

I think that The Daily Kos, for example, is definitely similar in terms of its journalistic practices in terms of relying on clickbait sometimes. I definitely would add that to the list, but part of me is even thinking of taking down the list entirely just for my own personal sanity.

Her argument then is that left-leaning sites aren’t included because…she’s still figuring it out? Wouldn’t an associate professor have fully figured out a list like that before making it public, or even before giving it to her students?

Zimdars did eventually take down the list, but it’s already gone viral.

3. The “fake news” list is, simply put, a blacklist. Nolte writes:

The mainstream media put itself on the 2016 presidential ballot, lost, and now they want to silence competing ideas by smearing, marginalizing and, yes, blacklisting us as spreaders of Fake News.

The Empire is striking back, and is doing so using lies, corporate censorship, and the kind of groupthink bullying that comes right out of the neo-Stalinist handbook.

This is no joke. The Empire is compiling blacklists, fomenting riots all over the country, and spending millions of dollars to organize those riots.

After all, as Harsanyi pointed out, the left has been itching to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine and was willing to cede control of the Internet to foreign governments.

4. There’s a study that’s being circulated showing that “fake news” received more attention on Facebook than “real news” leading up to the election. This study is garbage. The study—ironically published by Buzzfeed—is specious at best. The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney notes that the “real news” list consisted of “left-leaning opinion-heavy outlets like Huffington Post and Vox” but “didn’t include Yahoo News and the Daily Mail, two of the most-read news sites in the U.S. Also excluded: Reuters, BBC, Associated Press, Bloomberg, and, ahem, the Washington Examiner.

“You could add the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and the major newspapers in every city besides New York, L.A., and D.C,” Carney continued.

The “Real News” stories were actually leftist opinion bluster:

“Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?” As the headline suggests, this is a liberal opinion piece, complaining that the media doesn’t report enough on Trump’s scandals.

No. 2 is “Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton.” This is a rambling screed claiming that people only dislike Clinton because she is a woman.

The No. 3 “Real News” story is “Melania Trump’s Girl-on-Girl Photos From Racy Shoot Revealed,” published at the New York Post.

In other words, Buzzfeed’s methodology is too sloppy and left-leaning to take the study seriously. But that’s to be expected from a website that specializes in cat gifs.

5. If anything, fake news comes from the mainstream media. Camp documented some examples of fake news coming from the media, including NBC editing George Zimmerman’s 911 phone call to make it seem like he said “He looks like he’s up to no good; he looks black,” when in reality he said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” He didn’t tell the 911 operator that Trayvon Martin was black until he was asked what Martin’s race was. Additionally, CNN falsely reported that Zimmerman used a racial slur to describe Martin.

The Federalist’s Sean Davis tweeted out some examples of fake news from the media:

The media has also spread a fake story about Trump wanting to implement a Muslim registry. The New York Timesthe Left’s Infallible Source of All Truth—has their share of history of peddling propaganda from communist dictators and burying stories about the Holocaust.

6. Facebook is planning to clamp down on fake news. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has put together a seven-point plan to avoid the circulation of fake news, via USA Today:

1. Improve detection
2. Make it easier for users to report false news
3. Third-party verification
4. Labeling stories as false
5. Insuring “quality” news appears in the News Feed
6. Crack down on ads with misinformation
7. Work with journalists to develop better fact-checking systems

Zuckerberg did make clear that Facebook will err “on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible,” so how exactly they’re going to crack down on “fake news” remains to be seen.

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