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The “real” Fake News to watch out for

Published on: April 5th, 2020

 

In a time when information needs to be more accurate than ever, those of you on the receiving end of the information, are now faced with an added job of researching if the news you are seeing is accurate. In large part, thanks to political organizations seeking to change public policy to their benefit. 
 
The New York Times breaks down how political groups are working to influence public perception by pushing out counterfactual information. The answer to why is easy: Change public perception to effect a bottom line for a select few.
 
In a time where we are seeing the very real dangers of pitting the bottom line against public interest, the need for outlets reporting to media, should be held to a standard of truth as well. 

 

In 1987 the Fairness Doctrine was revoked, opening the airwaves to a slew of “entertainment news media” outlets that operate more on shock value and misinformation than actual news. Today, Fox News has a Accuracy Rating of 60% False or Mostly False, and a slew of “alternative” online sources working to appear as a real news site but are in fact, not.

From the New York Times article on Metric Media, just one of these political sites.

Conservative media companies like Sinclair Broadcast Group have become known for buying up local outlets they rebrand with ideologically aligned content. But Mr. Grossmann noted that the minimal advertising on the Michigan websites — along with their promotional push on Facebook — may signal that profits are not the main goal.

“It doesn’t look like a business enterprise,” he said. “News is struggling in general. It looks more like they’re trying to influence the political debate by targeting people who are already interested in that content.”

According to the “About Us” section on the websites, they are published by Metric Media, a company that says it was founded to fill “the growing news void in local and community news after years of steady disinvestment in local reporting by legacy media.”

Metric Media’s chief executive is Bradley Cameron, according to his online biography, which says he advises private equity investors in Silicon Valley, has been retained by conservative groups and served as senior adviser in the 1990s to the “Republican strategy leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Many if not all of the sites were registered on June 30 and updated on the same day in August, according to online domain records. The sites say they are operated by Locality Labs, a Delaware company affiliated with networks of local websites in Maryland and Illinois, according to The Lansing State Journal.

Brian Timpone, the head of Locality Labs, is a Republican activist in Illinois who has founded several media companies that have produced networks of local websites and newspapers with content that reflects staunch conservative views. Mr. Timpone ran a company that created local news stories for The Chicago Tribune, which ended its relationship with him in 2012 after it learned of complaints about faked bylines and plagiarism, according to The Tribune.

Mr. Cameron, Metric Media and Locality Labs could not be reached for comment on Monday night.

On its website, Metric Media describes its reporting philosophy as providing “objective, data-driven information without inserting personal or political viewpoints and biases.” The company wrote that it plans to open thousands of similar sites nationwide.

 

The Washington Post provides a breakdown on how the Fairness Doctrine came to an end.

The Fairness Doctrine sustained a number of challenges over the years. A lawsuit challenging the doctrine on First Amendment grounds, Red Lion Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission, reached the Supreme Court in 1969. The Court ruled unanimously that while broadcasters have First Amendment speech rights, the fact that the spectrum is owned by the government and merely leased to broadcasters gives the FCC the right to regulate news content. However, First Amendment jurisprudence after Red Lion started to allow more speech rights to broadcasters, and put the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in question.

In response, the FCC began to reconsider the rule in the mid-80s, and ultimately revoked it in 1987, after Congress passed a resolution instructing the commission to study the issue. The decision has been credited with the explosion of conservative talk radio in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. While the FCC has not enforced the rule in nearly a quarter century, it remains technically on the books. As a part of the Obama administration’s broader efforts to overhaul federal regulation, the FCC is finally scrapping the rule once and for all.

 

So how can we tell if the news we are hearing is actually news or political spin?

Because of the shift from knowing our news is credible, to having outlets making false claims, here are a variety of tips on fact-checking your news source.

 

How to Spot Fake News
    1. Identify Your Biases. …
    2. Check the Source(s) of the Information. …
    3. Confirm That the Information Is Reported by Multiple Sources. …
    4. Read Past the Headline. …
    5. Check the Authors & Their Credentials. …
    6. Distinguish Between News & Opinion. …
    7. Watch Out for Older Information. …
    8. Use Fact-Checkers to Validate Content.

 

Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts

NPR

 

Fake news stories can have real-life consequences. On Sunday, police said a man with a rifle who claimed to be “self-investigating” a baseless online conspiracy theory entered a Washington, D.C., pizzeria and fired the weapon inside the restaurant.

So, yes, fake news is a big problem.

These stories have gotten a lot of attention, with headlines claiming Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump in November’s election and sites like American News sharing misleading stories or taking quotes out of context. And when sites like DC Gazette share stories about people who allegedly investigated the Clinton family being found dead, the stories go viral and some people believe them. Again, these stories are not true in any way.

  1. Pay attention to the domain and URL
  2. Read the “About Us” section
  3. Look at the quotes in a story
  4. Look at who said them
  5. Check the comments
  6. Reverse image search

 

In short, doing your homework around the news you are consuming will make you a lot more informed about the policies that affect you.

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