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How to Identify Fake News?

Updated on February 11, 2017
jackclee lm profile image

Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

The subject of "fake news" is in the headlines ever since the election of 2016. Most people still don't have a clear understanding of fake news.

- Jan. 2017

Background

Let's begin by identifying the various possible sources of news. Here are the list.

  • Broadcast news - CBS, NBC, ABC
  • Print news - New York Times, Washington Post...
  • Cable news - CNN, FOX, MSNBC, OAN...
  • Satire news - The Onion, the Daily Show, Colbert Report.
  • Tabloid news - The National Enquirer, the Star...
  • Opinion shows - The O'Reilly Factor, Meet the Press, Face the Nation...
  • News websites - Huffington Post, Breitbart, Newsmax, Media Matters...
  • Wikileaks - published accounts of hacked emails and government secret documents.
  • Social media - Facebook, buzzfeed...
  • Government officials - news makers putting out fake or inaccurate statements.
  • Blogs...

Media Bias is not Fake News

We all know there is media bias of one sort or another. However, bias in reporting is not necessarily fake news. It is putting a spin or an emphasis on some topic. For example, not choosing to report a story is media bias but not fake news.

The Onion has "news" stories that are made up but that is not fake news. It is satire and everyone knows what that site is all about.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is also not fake news. It is entertainment and satire rolled into one. The problem is some young people think it is the news and rely on it solely to form their opinion.

Some Example of Fake News...

Now that we established what is not fake news, what is fake news?

Fake news is something created by someone with no factual basis. The information is heresay or made up. There is no collaborating evidence. It is presented as if it is news. It would not pass any standard journalism practices. It is worse than tabloid news. At least, some tabloids actually print some truths mixed with some sensational details.

Recently, a prime example of fake news is the story of Trump in Moscow with some alleged secret video showing him with hired prostitutes...

This story was put out there by one person who used to work for MI6, the British Intelligence service. There are no video, no collaborating witness, no person of authority quoted...The whole story is fiction. What made it a "fake news" is that it was presented to some US officials in government, who in turn passed it to the FBI. The news site Buzzfeed reported on this story as news. It then was picked up by CNN as a lead to some alleged dossier that was being investigated.

Dan Rather of CBS - father of fake news.

For those that may have forgotten, fake news is not that new. It was at the end of the 2004 election cycle of George W. Bush. Dan Rather put out a fake news story about Bush and the National guard service. It could have affected the election except the fake document was proven within days and Rather lost his job at CBS as a result.

More...

Once this "fake news" is part of our lexicon, another secondary effect is happening. Some will use this to denigrate another news site. For example, many liberals will refer to Fox News channel as "fake news". That is an unsubstantiated charge. You might not agree with the bias of Fox which leans conservative, no different than MSNBC leaning liberal. That by itself does not make it a peddler of fake news. In fact, Fox news is among the most trusted.

Yet, we constantly see this branding by the left. A news channel cannot be "fake news" or else it will be out of business. A particular story can be "fake" depending on who reported it and where the source comes from.

News Makers Faking it...

One prime example is the Benghazi affair over the 2012 election cycle. The news makers in this case are Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. They deliberately deceived the American public on the events of the Benghazi attack as a spontaneous protest over a YouTube video. This disinformation was orchestrated by Ben Rhodes from the White House. The media went along with this for 10 days before others started challenging the official account. Investigations and Congressional hearings followed but we never got to the bottom of this story.

Here is a case where the news makers themselves, for political expediency decided to put out a fake story to gain advantage at the expense of truth and winning an election.

What about wikileaks?

Wikileaks is a special category. It is a recent phenomenon where whistle-blowers are choosing to leak inside information to expose some corruption by government entities or individuals in a position of power. The content of Wikileaks, though obtained illegally or hacked, is actual data. You can debate the ethics of how they were obtained but not the content of the data. In my opinion, Wikileaks serve the public good by exposing corruption. There is a fine line when it comes to classified intelligence documents. If harm is brought upon individuals as a result of the leak, there needs to be some consequences. With power comes great responsibility. Wikileaks, if verified, is not fake news but exposed "hidden news", or real news that you were not suppose to know.

How to Combat Fake News?

There is a phrase in financial investing circles, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is". This applies to fake news as well. To combat fake news, it falls ultimately to the reader or consumer. You must question everything you read or is sent to you via email or social media. You must verify the original source of the article. If it is coming from a satire site like the "Onion", it is automatically rejected and laughed off. If it is coming from a main street media, check which section it came from. The editorial page can be more opinion but the main news section should not have any editorial content. Once a news organization lowered its standards of journalism, they need to pay a price by the readership. Let them know your displeasure via feedback. They will loose their credibility over time. In this internet age of anything goes, you can't be too careful.

Summary

Now that you know what fake news is, you should understand the motives behind such treachery. Why would any group go out of their way to do this? What is their motive and goal? Is it just a practical joke? Or is it an insidious method to discredit or assassinate a person's reputation? Or just a scheme to get more clicks for financial gains?

Let's not confuse fake news with satire or with spoofs or even bias. It is serious and it needs to be identified and those people engaged in this may possibly be charged with criminal activity. It undermines the integrity of our news gathering procedure. There is no room for fake news in our media.

© 2017 Jack Lee

Comments

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    • profile image

      Sanxuary 

      14 months ago

      If you worked for the government you would know those at the top are responsible but subordinates generally run most things. The people really responsible for Benghazi were thugs who attacked the place. It was not a problem and a bad plan until it failed. When the shuttle blew up a lot of people got blamed but it was not a problem taken serious enough until it happened. You just need someone to blame and if it fits your agenda its ok. You probably love fake news and believe in Aleins to. Talking to you would be a chore as you come up with stories no one has ever heard. I stick to reality and if it makes no sense its probably false. If you were in charge of thousands of people and something goes wrong and you were never even there it might be your fault in planning but you probably never had anything to do with it. Like the CEO of United Airlines is taking heat at this moment for lousy policies and not knowing they would turn out the way they did.

    • My Two Pennies profile image

      My Two Pennies 

      17 months ago from United States

      Oztinato, probably b/c like any sound business person, Trump didn't build his hotels in countries that are hotbeds for terrorism, as those on the list are. Common sense my friend, not conspiracy nonsense.

    • jackclee lm profile imageAUTHOR

      Jack Lee 

      17 months ago from Yorktown NY

      My Two Pennies, You are absolutely right on. People who watch MSNBC are living in their own bubble. At least, FOX news have opposing opinions on their show.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 

      17 months ago from Australia

      Jack

      I note you haven't commented about the correct news fact that Muslim countries with trump hotels are exempt from the ban.

    • My Two Pennies profile image

      My Two Pennies 

      17 months ago from United States

      Sanxuary, your biased assertions that you try to sell as fact are a perspective and nothing more. Your entire comment is under the assumptions that everyone sees the world through the same narrow liberal lens you do.

      "CNN and MSNBC are more informative... They were actually unbias durring the election" - and this statement is downright absurd and only emulates your major disconnect. Anyone paying attention this election saw an outright endorsement from these two networks for Hillary Clinton. Not to mention, CNN has been caught spreading a series of falsified stories, including the embarrassing fake Russian doc that Buzz Feed tried to push. To claim that either are a legitimate "news" source only shows you're buying into the misinformation campaign that the establishment media is peddling.

      How can anyone call them unbiased during the election?! That's an absolute joke...

    • jackclee lm profile imageAUTHOR

      Jack Lee 

      17 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Sanxuary, you have been duped by your own bias. MSNBC is one of the most bised cable network and it has one of the lowest ratings. As far as Benghazi is concerned, I tend to believe wikileaks and the released emails... In her own words, Hillary Clinton send emails to Chelsea and to some Ambasador that the act was planned terroists and not due to the video. How do you square that with her public statements?

      The Bengahzi affair if it did nothing else, it did expose Hillary and her private server. You can continue to believe that it is right wing talk radio that are spinning the lies but the truth is, they had nothing to do with this whole affair. Ultimately, if you are honest about it, it was the actions of Hillary alone that was behind all these scandals. Her decision from the outset to create her own server, to avoid FOIA requests, that was her downfall. No vast right wing conspiracy could do that.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 

      17 months ago

      Sadly I think you are getting a lot of fake news. If you really want some fake news spend 30 minutes on any right wing radio station. You should call in on a subject you really know the facts on and tell them your a liberal and see how far you get. I honestly condemn bad news no matter who reports it. CNN and MSNBC are more informative. They are bias especially when Trump attacks them every day. They were actually unbias durring the election. They reported the fake investigation by the FBI contless times a day. They are probably looking back and regretting that they reported it at all. They were just as tough on her durring Benghazi as anyone else. They fell for 911 and the second Gulf War hook line and sinker. They were to afraid to be seen as unpatriotic by asking any real quetions just like the rest of the media at the time. To believe anything you have to explore the facts. You have to realize that Benghazi involved a lot more people then Hillary. Your bashing her meant the Republicans benifited quite well by never solving any problem. Why are we in war torn Libya with a few dozen people. Who put them their? I doubt it was Hillary. She probably never even knew they were there until it happened. She just took the beating because she was a potential future candidate in charge of the State Department. If you had a President who attacks the media everyday and provides no real information, why would you even care what he saids? The only reason they care is to find out how crazy he is today. You really do not have to say anything. Just keep asking yourself what the hell? What answers will we get if Benghazi happens again. Is he going to fire someone who has no idea what the hell their doing. Maybe the embasy's are empty because he fired everyone and can not get anyone he picked a security clearance is my guess.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      What hate circulates. "our intolerance and lack of learning is like a real bad Country Western Song". Why spew intolerance and judgment?

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      17 months ago

      To even imagine, which we have to, that the media makes stuff up is unreal. We have come to an incredible low point in this country. If a station or newspaper is reporting the news, stick to the facts. I don't know what they are teaching in journalism schools but is is despicable.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 

      17 months ago from Australia

      Yes like the Muslim ban on Muslim countries, unless they have trump hotels of course.

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