Fake news poses real threat

Patrick Dochat, Staff writer

The Trump administration seems to disdain legitimate facts. This was most notably on display when counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway defended Trump spokesman Sean Spicer’s overestimate of the inauguration crowd size as “alternative facts.” But it didn’t start there.

There is a problem if your president builds his campaign and presidential strategies based on fake statistics and facts. It is a threat to national security and our democracy.

Anything that is negative about Trump is immediately dismissed by his administration as fake news, or lies, from the corrupt media. So instead of fixing himself and straightening out his campaign, in order to hear positive things about himself he turned to the fake news.

I don’t know whether Trump actually knows what he reads is fake or if he truly believes it, but he sure likes to talk about what he reads and hears on the internet.

Craig Silverman, a journalist and editor for Buzzfeed, spoke with Terry Gross from NPR about his findings related to fake news in political campaigning.

“In late December, fake news being viewed, shared or liked, had surpassed the numbers of actual news from some of the biggest news outlets around,” Silverman said.

His analysis clearly demonstrated that the most popular fake stories were those that were either pro-Trump or anti-Hillary which explains the rumors and lies about the Clinton Foundation and Pizza Gate.

Maybe it’s not unbelievable that there is a battle between fact and fiction on the internet. But it is crazy that the creators of the websites that spread the fake news are from all over the world.

From just one city in the tiny Balkan country Macedonia, there are more than 100 websites that are influencing our political views by disseminating fake news, NPR reports.

These websites have deceptive American-sounding names that are easy to mistake for real websites, like “US Daily News 24” and “DC Gazzette.” But that’s not all.

The fake news situation reminds me of George Orwell’s “1984,” in which the dystopian, authoritarian government known as Big Brother, benefited from the widespread ignorance and impressionability of the general public. The novel’s iconic government chant, “Ignorance is strength,” credits the public’s lack of awareness to the government’s increasing power.

As the line between real and fake news continually blurs to the point of indistinguishability, ignorance escalates, creating a breeding ground for government scandal.

Given the current administration’s inexcusable affinity for dismissing real news and covering lies as “alternative facts,” it’ imperative that the public becomes vigilant in its distrust of questionable news sources—even on their own Facebook feeds.

Let’s also not confuse manufactured news organizations’ unbelievable feeds with reported information from professional news outlets, such as CNN. Translation: understand that the president uses the moniker fake news to label coverage he finds unflattering.

As alluring and self-affirming as fake news can be, it’s dangerously misleading. That and the fact that it’s not going away any time soon means we all need to be sure we can tell fact from fiction.
Facebook has faced a huge outbreak of fake news. The spreaders buy and create accounts where they can attach links to their websites.

According to NPR, they have shared fake news stories in Pro-Trump group pages. This method, and other tactics of fake news writers, are curated to target thousands of people at once.

I don’t believe that Facebook can do much about this problem, but since the company is taking the blame, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, has been developing technology in order to help the nearly 2 billion users to identify fake news. According to the New York Times, Zuckerberg’s algorithm will flag fake news articles and limit links to other fake news stories.

I’ve even seen some of my friends share some sketchy news stories. This isn’t just a problem for politicians, it affects us all.