First Amendment Violation–Or Responsible Action? Re: Fake News Sites

FakeNewsInfoWars

Alex Jones of the InfoWars web site has posted a video claiming that the “government has announced they want to shut this site (InfoWars.com) down.” Other fake news sites are running similar articles, including one called “TheBostonTribune” claiming that President Obama signed an Executive Order to “shut down the alt right” and other “alternative media” sites. The article even posted an Executive Order 13749 (and even gave the link to a government page listing Executive Orders (https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders) where there was no Executive Order 13749 (as of this writing). So this “story” seems to be just more fake news.

The reason these sites exist at all in the U.S. is because of the First Amendment protections for freedom of speech and expression. Unfortunately, people who run these sites abuse their First Amendment rights by posting irresponsibly and dishonestly by spreading misinformation and personal and political bias and bigotry (and racism, sexism, xenophobia). Alex Jones is one of the more prominent purveyors of fake news and gross bias.

Perhaps, since these sites do not post truthful or reliable news, they should – instead of being shut down – be required by law to make a clearly and prominently visible statement to the effect of: “Articles published on this site are not vetted or sanctioned by any official U.S. news organization and are predominantly the authors’ subjective opinion, are spoofed or fake, and/or are satirical in nature and therefore can not considered as being 100% truthful or accurate.” This would be the responsible action.

How fake news sites work: They take truths and weave false stories around them to make it appear as if it was a legitimate piece of news. But it is dishonest and pernicious. As several mainstream news articles have been reporting, “fake news has real world effects” – and those effects are potentially dangerous (like the person who took a firearm into a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C.).

Many of the political fake news sites serve to promote often exaggerated right wing (Republican) ideals and even far right wing fanaticism, and to bash the left wing and “Liberals” – both of whom they often call inflammatory names like “libtards” and other derogatory pejoratives – and tell usually false and inaccurate pseudo-news that mischaracterizes and condemns the left (Democrats). And people keep falling for this crap! Even after all the media attention regarding fake news sites, people still fall for this stuff, and even defend it. The sites that post fake news call their sites “alternative media” – which is misleading. This “alternative media” is usually posted by people with an agenda – to promote their bias and bigotry and to make money off of advertisers who advertise through these outlets and off of begging for donations.

A tech author and writer, Bob Rankin, (often featured on the PC Pitstop web site), wrote an article to help identify fake news sites:

“Fake news is spread mainly ON Facebook and Twitter. Both social media platforms have pledged to do more to identify fake news and stop its spread. But fake news is not spread BY Facebook or Twitter. It’s spread by the human users of these services. Check out these tips to help you discern spot the bogus stories.

Avoid sites whose names end with “lo” such as “Politicalo” or “Newslo.” They all belong to a network of sites that inject false “facts” and misleading interpretations into true stories, then distribute the poisoned fruits.

Domain names that end in “.com.co” are usually masquerading as legitimate sources. The same goes for “.com.cc” or any other “.com” name that has additional letters at its end.

If mainstream media is not reporting a story, it’s more likely that there is no story, than that the MSM does not want to report it. Be suspicious of any story that complains, “MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS IGNORING THIS!”

That’s Outrageous!

Beware of headlines and body text that use lots of capitalized words. All-caps text stirs up angry, anxious emotions in readers, making them more inclined to share without thinking.

If a story is written in a tone of outrage, it is likely to make you very angry too. Take a deep breath and check the story’s claims via Google before sharing it.

The lack of a date, location, or author’s name in an article should move your BS-detector’s needle. If your BS-detector is missing or faulty, try the B.S. Detector browser plugin. It checks every page you visit, comparing the domain names to a database of domains belonging to unreliable or questionable news sources, and will alert you with a banner across the top of the page if what you’re reading is potentially bogus. Links are categorized as Fake News, Satire, Extreme Bias, Conspiracy Theory, Rumor Mill, Junk Science, Hate Group, Clickbait, and Proceed With Caution (sources that may be reliable but require further verification).

Check the comments left on a story, if any are available. You may find someone has already debunked or verified the story.

A picture has more emotional impact than 1,000 words, and pictures can be faked too. I detailed several ways to evaluate the authenticity of images in my article, Is That Picture Real? Google Image Search is your best tool for learning where else a given picture appears.”

(Read the whole article here.)

Fake news (“Alternative Media” or “Alternative News”) has grown into a major problem, and many believe it has unfairly influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. It is believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has been a promoter of fake news with the intent to interfere in the 2016 American electoral process and, has possibly done so since as far back as 2008.

Fake news is bad news. Please check your sources before you re-post any “news” stories – on Facebook or Twitter or other social media site – or in your blog – especially if they seem a bit hard to believe, or if they anger you or raise your blood pressure … don’t fall for the lies and misinformation.

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