Evil online fairy tales
Good morning, fellow newsletter lovers,
My name is Jane Lytvynenko. I’m a reporter on our digital deception team and I’m here to replace Elamin’s sunny demeanor with a grim peek into our dystopian future. That’s right: We’re going to talk about fake news and other online trash.
First, a definition: When people who cover disinformation talk about fake news, we mean completely fabricated stories on websites created to mimic news outlets. Think evil online fairy tales. Enjoy this lighthearted example:
Usually, these types of hoaxes are created to rake in some cash. Remember when the pope “endorsed” Donald Trump? Like that. They tend to spread through social media, primarily Facebook. Propagators will drop them into Facebook groups or publish them on their own pages to get traction. Sometimes they’ll use dishonest memes and videos to grow their following.
Then, when an unsuspecting reader clicks on an enticing headline, they will be led to a website crammed with advertisements. That’s how the fake news dollars are made (and why you should be careful about what you share!). Here’s a checklist to help you spot a fake news story.
Making money for online sleazeballs isn’t the only issue with hoaxes, nor are websites their only incarnation. The people who create hyperpartisan news take reality out of context for the sake of emotional manipulation by writing stories aimed at only the left or only the right. Hateful memes and videos stir up animosity. When working in tandem, the ecosystem is capable of inciting violence and causing death.
That isn’t an exaggeration. Recent reports are pointing to misinformation on Facebook helping facilitate violence and political unrest in India, Germany, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Libya. People are losing their lives and livelihoods because of lies and hate spread online.
Reporting shows social media companies have been aware for years that their platforms can be weaponized by bad actors. Activists in Myanmar talked to Facebook about it in 2013. The Ukrainian government asked the company for help with Russian interference a year later. Only now, when Facebook’s feet have been put to the proverbial fire by reporters and governments, has it begun to take action.
So what can I do about it?
Start with yourself. Research by Pew shows people are spectacularly inept at distinguishing real news outlets from their manipulated doppelgängers. Cultivate go-to sources for your local, national, and international news and follow reporters whose work you respect. If you see something amiss in your timeline, message the person who posted it and ask them to take it down. You can alway send me a tip at [email protected] And hey, if you want to take a deeper dive into the world of fake news, sign up for the Fake Newsletter.
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A cartoonist’s depiction of tennis star Serena Williams after the controversial US Open final is being labeled “racist” and “sexist.” The image shows the 23-time Grand Slam winner with enlarged lips, a larger figure, and a broken racket and a pacifier on the ground, suggesting her conduct at Sunday’s match was childlike. Australian cartoonist Mark Knight has defended his cartoon, claiming that it was a true reflection of the events of the US Open women’s final.
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This letter was edited and brought to you by Jane Lytvynenko and AngleNews. You can always reach us here.
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