True-or-FalseIn September 2015, I was seeing this story on Facebook, disseminated by people I knew personally, that indicated that President Obama was going to receive his second Nobel Peace Prize. Instantly, I knew it was bogus – among other things, the award would be issued later in the year – but I wanted to know WHY it was spreading so quickly.

Both NationalReport.com and USAToday.com.co who published the story are notorious fake websites, that do not print legitimate news. USAToday.com.co is not affiliated with USAToday in any way, according to its disclaimer. USAToday.com.co is part of a growing number of .co websites that attempt to disguise themselves as reputable brands that includes NYTimes.com.co, washingtonpost.com.co and NBC.com.co. These are fake news websites and nothing on them should be taken seriously.

In fact, a USAToday.com.co report that the new Facebook “dislike” button would delete posts with 10 dislikes was gaining some traction. It’s a devilishly potent formula of taking a fact – in this case, Facebook installing a “dislike” button – then tapping into suspicions about Facebook, and coming up with a credible lie.

HowStuffWorks has a story on 10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story, not particularly useful. It does note that there are satire sites such as The Onion, which would also apply to the Borowitz report at the New Yorker. These are clearly designed to tell a greater truth.

A recent article in The Onion: Pope Francis Kills 3 Hours Milling Around Atlanta Airport During Layover To D.C. – shows how the leader of over a billion Catholics might spend time milling around the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, like many passengers actually do. Now that they are known as such, these web pages are less likely to be incorrectly disseminated as true, though, in the past couple years, the governments of Iran and China have been fooled.

Whereas sites such as The Daily Currant and its ilk have beguiled even US mainstream media organizations. “The site’s business model as an ad-driven clickbait-generator relies on it. When Currant stories go viral, it’s not because their satire contains essential truths, but rather because their satire is taken as truth— and usually that ‘truth’ is engineered to outrage a particular frequency of the political spectrum. As Slate’s Josh Voorhees wrote…, ‘It’s a classic Currant con, one that relies on its mark wanting to believe a particular story is true.'”

This doesn’t even count the sites designed to distort the narrative, to meet a political agenda. Conservative media claiming a picture shows Syrian refugees with ISIS flags used a real picture, a counter-protest to anti-Islam policies. The flag wasn’t an ISIS flag, because in May 2012, when the picture was taken, there was no ISIS at the time.

One of the more clever cases involved the BBC, Dow and the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster.

As a librarian and someone who seeks to be an informed citizen, this is a challenge. One can’t always trust the (corporate) press to get it right; see Judith Miller and the New York Times on the run-up to the Iraq war, for a classic example.

I try to read/watch a variety of sources and determine whether a narrative passes the sniff test. It’s not always easy.

abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17

19 Responses to “U is for Untrue “news””

  • uthaclena says:

    Lies are legitimate as long as they make money appears to be the faux journalistic ethic. Fox “News” has mastered that by referring to actual news events but then “adjusting” if not outright editing the context in the presentation. In fact, one of Fox’s affiliates in Florida won a court case several years ago that basically said that telling the truth is not a journalistic requirement.

  • Chris E. says:

    There are fake news sites that are purposefully fake but not funny? And they look like real news sites?

    :'(

  • CGHill says:

    Afraid so. And if there’s any indication that you’re reading fakery, it’s buried somewhere in the stuff you’re unlikely to see.

  • lesliebc says:

    My mother used to tell us not to believe anything we hear and only half of what we see. Interesting theory.

    Leslie
    abcw team

  • Well written, Roger, and very scary!

  • Fascinating reading and post for U ~ Many times I have thought that newspaper made up stories so social media on the internet is becoming similar ~

    Wishing you a magical week,
    artmusedog and carol

  • Here in The Netherlands we have a saying..”met een korreltje zout nemen” …
    litaraly translated = take with a grain of salt …
    it means that one always should ‘know’ that the news wich come to us in diversee media …. always contains a part of the thruth and a part of the untruth … altough one can state that we live in een free country, not everything that comes out through official channels is to be trusted.

  • The only news site I recognise there, is Fox and even then
    I don’t watch it.
    Our BBC news sites are very politically biased, cant say which
    party they back, for fear of being shot… kid you not !

    Best wishes,
    Di.
    ABCW team.

  • Rajesh says:

    Very true. There are lot of hoax news.

  • ellen b says:

    So many stories whirling about that are fiction. I have used Snopes and Truth or Fiction to try to confirm if a story is true or not.
    Have a good week.

  • Reader Wil says:

    I never read our yellow press and try to read other magazines and papers with an open mind..BTW i hope President Obama will get a noble prize. for peace for the second time.
    Wil, ABCWTeam.

  • photowannabe says:

    Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it true.
    One really has to be cautious about opening links.

  • Terri@Coloring Outside the Lines says:

    I’ve been trying to figure these fake sites out myself. My facebook timeline is FULL of these videos and the more I click them off, or “hide” them, the more certain of my friends repost them. I never thought to check this .co business, but I do send urls to snopes.com more than ever before…just because some of these reports are so scary!

  • Hildred says:

    I have always been fanatical about ‘sources’ – I read recently on Facebook that Syrian refugees are not welcome because of their differences, whereas thousands of Britons in hundreds of boasts were welcomed to our shores at the outbreak of war with Nazi Germany.

    Well, you had to be there to know what a fantasy this is, – they were too busy at home gathering all their resources together to defend themselves…. but there it was, on Facebook!

  • anne says:

    amazing one.

  • Margy says:

    Knowing how many trolls there are out there, I’d hate to have my Facebook posts removed with dislikes. – Margy

  • Joy says:

    Although the journalist Louis Heren said it about politicians it might be a good mantra when reading ‘news’ – “why is this lying bastard lying to me”.

  • I’ve been fooled by Onion and similar sites. So gullible am I. I’ve gotten better at googling whether something is a hoax.

  • ann says:

    The girl in the lawyer uniform is my daughter. She won’t let me use her photo. Now she is in Solomon Islands, I sneak in photos.

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