Archive for the 'fake news' Category

Coffman himself validates news value of 9News story about his early exit from constituent meeting

Monday, January 30th, 2017

The day after 9News broke the story about U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) exiting early out the back door of a library filled with people wanting to ask him about Obamacare, Blair Miller, a reporter for Denver7 News, tweeted, “Gotta give the competition credit for a good story: Congressman Coffman leaves frustrated crowd.”

It was a well deserved tip-of-the-hat to Nelson Garcia, who broke the story for the NBC affiliate.

Who could possibly argue about the news value of catching a Congressman on video slipping out the back door early with a room of people still waiting to see him? It doesn’t matter who tipped Garcia off, where Coffman was going, why the people were mad. Coffman’s exit, spotlighted with police tape, was undeniably news.

Yet,  ColoradoPeakPolitics bloggers and others are claiming the story was “fake news,” an accusation Denver writer Corey Hutchins shredded in the Columbia Journalism Review last week. Hutchins stated the obvious, calling Garcia’s story a “credible news report.”

But in case anyone sides with conservatives on this, the best proof of the news value of 9News’ story is U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s own respoonse to it!

Coffman said in a subsequent interview that the library was “the wrong venue for the event,” which the Congressman described as a “protest.”

“So what I’m trying to do right now is get a very large venue and just really get the word out for people to come. Probably at least it would handle 300 people, not in a library.”

That’s about the best acknowledgement of the importance and validity of Garcia’s story you could imagine–and that’s without adding the public’s interest in knowing that Coffman slipped out the back door early.

So, when will Coffman hold his big meeting?

Are conservatives going to try to say that journalists aren’t justified in asking that question either?

State lawmaker deletes fake news from her Facebook page

Friday, January 27th, 2017

lawrence-on-hillary-trashing-byonce-with-racial-surs-lastlineofdefense-orgColorado State Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park) has set an example for lawmakers everywhere, from Trump on down, by removing a fake-news item from her Facebook page.

On Wednesday, I left a phone message for Lawrence, alerting her that back in Nov. she’d posted fake news with the headline, “WHOA! Hillary Caught On Hot Mic Trashing Beyonce’ with RACIAL SLURS! Looks like Hillary may have just lost one of her biggest endorsements.”

The day after I called her, Lawrence removed the fake news.

The fakeness of the Lawrence’s post was never in doubt from the moment she posted it.

The website called “The Resistance: The Last Line Of Defense,” which published the Beyonce’ fake news, has a disclaimer, which reads:

DISCLAIMER: The Resistance may include information from sources that may or may not be reliable and facts that don’t necessarily exist. All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.

What’s more, Snopes determined on Nov. 5, the day before Lawrence posted the item, that the Beyonce’ item was false.

Still, Lawrence posted the fake news with the comment, “If this is true, it fits in with the accusation that the Democrats only work with the African-American community when they need votes.”

But you know what’s great? Lawrence accepted criticism and removed the fake news.

Why? Because fake news causes cancer in civic discourse. That was diagnosed and then proven in the last election.

At least I think that’s why Lawrence removed it. She didn’t return my call, which is too bad because I would have heaped even more praise on her.

In my phone message, in which I thanked Lawrence for removing the fake news, I asked her if she’d sign the Fake News Pledge, which is a promise 1) not to post fake news, defined as false information “packaged to look like news,” and 2) to post a correction and explanation on Facebook if fake news is accidentally posted. The Pledge’s arbiters of fake news are Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or a respected news outlet. If Pledge signers disagree with the specified arbiters, they do not have to remove anything from Facebook. But they are obliged to explain why they disagree with the fact checkers.

Lawrence did not respond to my request that she sign the Fake News Pledge, and she still has at least one fake-news meme on her site, with a misquote of Obama, which I’ll ask her about later.

Lawrence is the second Colorado state lawmaker to remove fake news from their Facebook pages, since last year when I posted an investigation showing that five legislators had spread a total of eight fake news items on Facebook.

After she became aware of her fake news post, then State Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs), removed it, telling me, “If it was false, and it came to my attention that it was false, then of course I would [remove it].” (Roupe also didn’t respond to my request to sign the Fake News Pledge, and she has since left office.)

The three other lawmakers cited in the BigMedia.org investigation have refused to delete fake news. Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs) refused to believe that Scalia was not, without a doubt, assassinated by the Clintons. And State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) refused to remove two items deemed false by fact checkers from his Facebook page. State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada), who’s left office as well, did not respond to my requests that she remove fake news from her Facebook page.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat representing the Boulder area, also acted honorably this month by deleting a fake-news tweet, in the wake of a Twitter discussion referencing the Fake News Pledge.

State senator says “each individual has to be the arbiter” of fake news

Monday, January 16th, 2017

neville-post-saying-ca-dems-legalize-child-porn-12-30-16If the left and right are ever going to agree on ground rules for stopping the spread of fake news, both sides will have to wear gloves and nose clips to endure the rot and stench of some awful Facebook “news”–while we focus on eliminating the worst falsehoods and fabrications.

That’s what I was thinking after my phone conversation Friday with State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton).

I thought it was obvious Neville had spread fake news by posting an article on Facebook with the headline, “California Democrats Legalize Child Prostitution.”

But after talking to Neville about it, he convinced me that the prostitution post wasn’t fake news, from his ultra-conservative perspective, (even though it was fake news from where I sit), and I was wrong for thinking he would see it otherwise.

“I get what you’re saying,” Neville told me. “And I know the title of the story might have been sensationalist. However, what they did with the law creates an opportunity for child prostitution without any kind of [criminal] enforcement. So, I’m comfortable leaving it up. And if you feel it might have been a little bit sensationalist as far as the headline, I mean, Jason, I like your writing, and I read it, but sensationalism is part of your game…

I looked again at Snopes, which I’d relied on as my fact checker, and realized that it had rated the California-prostitution item as “mostly false,” not “false,” for exactly the reason Neville cited.

Snopes concluded:

WHAT’S TRUE: A California law passed in 2016 provides that minors involved in prostitution be treated as victims rather than criminals.

WHAT’S FALSE: It is still illegal for Californians to hire prostitutes (child or otherwise), and sex traffickers will still face consequences if they are caught prostituting children.

“If children are engaging in prostitution, they can’t even be prosecuted as juveniles,” said Neville. “If I post the article, I expect people to read the article, make their own decisions, and go from there. I just think it’s a bad policy.”

If Neville had signed the Fake News Pledge for elected officials, it would have been within the guidelines for him not to remove the California-prostitution item, because it wasn’t rated 100 percent “false” by Snopes, which the pledge uses, along with Factcheck.org, Politifact, and “respected” news outlets, as arbiters of fakeness.

Not so, however, with two other fake-news posts I found on Neville’s Facebook page. Both items, discussed in my recent investigation of fake news on state lawmakers’ websites, were found to be false by Factcheck.org.

neville-on-earth-in-21st-year-without-global-warming-2015-07-19-daily-caller

In one case, Neville posted an Daily Caller item headlined, “Satellites: Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming.” The linked article cites satellite data allegedly showing a “prolonged hiatus” in global warming.

“Global warming alarmists have a real problem,” wrote Neville on Facebook. “Satellite data tells the real story.”

The mainstream scientific community, as reported by Factcheck.org, has found no hiatus in global warming on Earth, unless you cherry pick the data.

“There are a lot of sources on that,” Neville told me, adding that different temperature reporting procedures around the world throw off the “baseline” for comparisons.

He’s right that there are other sources, but I could not find a third-party arbiter that finds them credible.

neville-on-obama-new-national-reitrement-system-2015-09-03-nationalseniorscouncil

In another case that I cite in my investigation, Neville posted a fake-news  item in August headlined, “Obama Begins Push for New National Retirement System.” The linked article, based on a hearing way back in 2010, claimed the Obama Administration had begun an effort “to nationalize the nation’s pension system and to eliminate private retirement accounts including IRA’s and 401k plans.” But years ago, when the accusation was first hurled by the conservative National Seniors Council, Factcheck.org showed it to be false.

If Neville were a signer of the Fake News Pledge, it would be within the guidelines for him to post both the global warming and retirement items, but he’d have to explain why he did so, since his posts were found to be false by an independent arbiters listed in the pledge.

“I don’t put a lot of faith in Snopes,” Neville told me. “I used to rely on Snopes, and too often I would find that Snopes was incorrect.”

Is there any group of arbiters that the left and right could agree on? I’ve asked conservatives on Twitter and elsewhere to edit the Fake News Pledge to make it acceptable to them. None has responded.

“My point is, people have a responsibility [to think about information],” said Neville. “They read something. They can challenge it. They can argue.”

Neville said people should get news from a variety of sources.

“I don’t expect people to act and react on something I might post any more than I would act or react on something they might post,” he said. “We’re not experts. We put information out there. A lot of times, it reflects opinion. Sometimes a news source might let you down. I think they’ve all kind of let us down over the last few years, the last year in particular.”

“To me, each individual has to be the arbiter,” he continued. “And my hope is, those who are involved in journalism, it’s their profession, I hope they take it seriously. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. That’s what we have to work with.”

Asked if he would delete something from Facebook, if he thought it was wrong, based on his own preferred sources, whatever they are, Neville said, “Yes, you take a look at it. You try to get more information out. And you try to follow up with something else, which is what you would do.”

“Call me and let me know,” he said.

Dr. Chaps says his Facebook post alleging “assassination of Scalia” by Clintons isn’t necessarily fake

Friday, January 13th, 2017

klingenschmidt-on-wikileaks-exposing-assassination-of-scalia-endingthefedAt the end of last year, in an investigation of the Facebook pages of Colorado state legislators, I revealed that then State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs) posted a fake-news item in October claiming that Wikileaks documents proved the “assassination of Scalia” was orchestrated by the Clintons.

The day after Klingenschmitt posted the Scalia item, Snopes showed it to be false, concluding, “An e-mail published by WikiLeaks referenced not the literal assassination of Antonin Scalia, but what appeared to be a coordinated smear of Bernie Sanders.”

Yet the item remains on Klingenschmitt’s Facebook page to this day, along with this comment, “Anybody have a comment on this? Scalia dies same weekend after Podesta (for Hillary Clinton) sends this ‘wet works’ email? Hmmmm.”

I asked “Dr. Chaps,” as Klingenschmitt calls himself, why he hasn’t removed the fake news.

Klingenschmitt: “As an aspiring journalist, truth is my stock and trade, so I do not intentionally re-post items on Facebook if I know they are false,” Klingenschmitt told me via email. “If I remember the actual news article going around months ago, it did not allege that Hillary Clinton killed Justice Scalia, of course that would be fake news. Instead it merely compared the timelines of two true events: 1) Hillary’s staffer John Podesta’s actual emails about planning to conduct “wet works” operations the same weekend that 2) Scalia died suspiciously without autopsy, and the only witness initially said Scalia’s body had a pillow over his head. So far as I know, these two events are still true and both happened within days of each other, raising more than a few eyebrows by their proximity. But fake newsers in the mainstream media are afraid to offend, so their liberal omissions make them less credible than conservatives who report the facts, and let the public draw their own conclusions.”

I wrote back to Klingenschmitt and told him that the Podesta email actually referred to a smear campaign against Bernie Sanders, and had nothing to do with an attack on Scalia, according to Snopes.

Still, I wrote to Chaps, I hoped he and I could agree that facts matter, and so I was wondering if he would sign my Fake News Pledge for citizens. See it and sign here.

The pledge, essentially identical to the one for elected officials, relies on mainstream-media fact checkers, like Snopes, as arbiters, but it allows signers to ignore the fact checkers if they disagree with them and explain why.

So in this case, if you signed the Fake News Pledge, I told Chaps, you would not have to take down your Scalia post, even though it’s been disproven by Snopes. Instead, I told him he could post an explanation on his Facebook page of why he disagree Snopes—like the one provided me.

“Do you think this is fair?” I asked Chaps. “Will you sign the Fake News Pledge?”

“I try to avoid pledges, but I also try to avoid fake news, so we’re on the same page, but I can’t sign sorry,” he wrote.

So, my investigation identified eight fake-news items, posted on Facebook by five Colorado state legislators, Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park) and Rep. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), as well as then Representatives Klingenschmitt and Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs) and then Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada).

Only Rep. Roupe has deleted the fake news from her Facebook page.

Polis responds honorably to accusation he spread fake news on Twitter

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Conservative activist Kelly Maher tweeted yesterday that I should launch “57 tweets” at U.S. Rep. Jared Polis because he tweeted information from a Buzzfeed article with unsubstantiated allegations against Trump. In other words, fake news.

Maher had a serious point, and as I was formulating the 57 tweets she requested, Polis responded to Maher, and, in the end, what he did was mostly in keeping with the guidelines outlined in the Fake News Pledge for Elected Officials.

Polis deleted his tweet with Buzzfeed’s unsubstantiated information (apparently Polis did this before Maher’s tweets), and he had a substantive Twitter conversation with Maher. Polis should have explained why he deleted his tweet, especially after Maher referenced it, but Polis did re-tweet a post from Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith explaining why his outlet published unverified information about Trump.

It was good to see Polis openly engage Maher, which is what you’d hope elected officials would do when presented with evidence that they’re spreading fake news. (Former GOP State Representative Kit Roupe openly discussed her deletion of a fake-news item last week.)

Here’s a portion of the Twitter exchange between Polis and Maher:

Kelly Maher @okmaher: I expect at least 3 Huffpo articles and 57 tweets from @BigMediaBlog [That’s my Twitter handle] aimed at @jaredpolis for sharing “fake news” today. #copolitics #coleg

Jared Polis @jaredpolis: @okmaher @BigMediaBlog why do you think it is fake? Do you have intelligence that I don’t? If so pls share.

Kelly Maher @okmaher: @jaredpolis 1) 4chan took credit 2) all other news orgs passed 3) you deleted your tweet calling it “intel” @BigMediaBlog #copolitics

Kelly Maher @okmaher: @jaredpolis I agree that it needs to be sussed out, but @BigMediaBlog accuses those who share first, then asks questions later. #copolitics

Jared Polis @jaredpolis: @okmaher @BigMediaBlog good so we both agree that the Intel needs to be analyzed and “sussed out.” Consequences if true? Trump resignation?

Kelly Maher @okmaher: @jaredpolis “intel” is an aggressive word. It is CLEARLY unverified and @BigMediaBlog should be consistent about “fake news” #copolitics

Jared Polis@jaredpolis: @okmaher @BigMediaBlog I want it looked into and verified, the charges are very serious

Kelly Maher @okmaher: @jaredpolis This is bad for our entire system of accountability and governance theatlantic.com/politics/archi… @BigMediaBlog #copolitics

Polis didn’t delete tweets with links to CNN and Washington Post stories stating that top intelligence chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on unconfirmed claims that Russia had compromising information about Trump.

That’s a legitimate story. That is, the fact that the intelligence chiefs included these claims in their briefing, and Polis was totally within real-news bounds to comment on it, as he did on his Twitter feed, calling for an investigation.

State legislator removes fake news from her Facebook page, saying she did not realize it was false

Monday, January 9th, 2017

roupe-on-sagging-pants-2016-05-25State Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs) has cleansed a false “public service announcement” from her Facebook page.

In May, Roupe shared the fake-news item, which falsely claimed that the “trend of wearing pants below your butt” was started by prisoners who wanted to “signal” that they were “willing to have sex with other prisoners.”

“If it was false, and it came to my attention that it was false, then of course I would [remove it]” Roupe told me.

Roupe removed the sagging-pants fake news item after it was cited in a December BigMedia.org investigation of fake news appearing on the Facebook pages of state legislators.

Asked if she always deletes Facebook items once she finds out they’re fake or inaccurate, Roupe said, “Yeah, once I know that it’s false. I mean, sometimes you can tell when it’s false and sometimes you can’t.”

In this case, the sagging-pants falsehood had been proven bogus by Snopes about a year before Roupe posted it.

“Sometimes I’ll [post something on Facebook] to spontaneously combust conversation, not to claim that it’s news, but to get people to talk about stuff.”

While I disagree that state legislators like Roupe should spread rumors to ignite conversation, I give Roupe big credit for removing fake news from her Facebook page and thereby advancing the cause of fact-based discourse.

Roupe told me she didn’t remember the sagging-pants item specifically and that she manages her own Facebook page. So she would have been the one to remove it.

Roupe’s personal Facebook policy regarding fake news is similar to the guidelines in the Fake News Pledge that BigMedia.org is asking legislators to sign. It reads, in part, that if a legislator posts a fake news item that’s “deemed unproven or false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet, information from my Facebook page will be removed as soon as possible–or detailed reasons for not deleting it will be provided.”

Roupe did not post reasons for deleting the sagging-pants fake news item.

Roupe, who’s loss in the November election means she’ll be leaving the State Legislature this week, declined to sign The Fake News Pledge, telling me in an email that it’s “moot” due to her imminent departure. She did not respond to my request to sign the Fake News Pledge for ordinary citizens.

Fake news is defined in the pledge as “inaccurate information, packaged to look somehow like news.”

The “Public Service Announcement” that Roupe removed from her Facebook page stated:

“For all those who think it’s nice to walk around with your pants below your butt…read the following explanation: The trend was born in the United States’ jails, where prisoners who were willing to have sex with other prisoners needed to invent a signal that would go unnoticed by the guards so they wouldn’t suffer consequences. So, by partially showing their butts, they showed that they were available to be penetrated by other inmates. Click ‘share’ if you want to join the cause for a better dressed and more educated world.”

In its post debunking this fake news, Snopes wrote:

Snopes: “While sagging did gain its start in the U.S. prison system, it was not a clothes-wearing style authored by imprisoned homosexuals intent upon advertising their interest in casual flings. Sagging pants became the behind-the-bars thing thanks to ill-fitting prison-issue garb: some of those incarcerated were provided with clothing a few sizes too large. That oversizing, coupled with the lack of belts in the big house, led to a great number of jailbirds whose pants were falling off their arses. (Belts are not permitted in most correctional facilities because all too often the lifeless bodies of their inmate owners have been found hanging from them.)”

The other state lawmakers, whose Facebook pages were found to contain fake news, have yet to remove the inaccurate items.

State senator declines to sign fake news pledge, saying the term fake news “smacks of a new censorship”

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

You’d think twice about signing some pledges, if you’re a politician.

But a pledge not to spread fake news, if it’s found to be false by “Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet?”  And to remove such falsehoods accidentally posted on Facebook unless “detailed reasons for not deleting” them are provided.

That’s kind of like saying, I promise to tell the truth, as I see it, to the best of my ability.

So why wouldn’t everyone sign such the pledge? Alas, Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) has rejected the fake news pledge, stating in an email to me:

Lundberg: I have always been as careful as I can in not promoting inaccurate information. However, there is a troubling element to the idea that news out of the mainstream might be suspected of being “fake.”

Having been a legislator for many years, and at one time a member of the news media, I know that every story is laced with the assumptions and perspective of the reporter. Hence, almost all stories have elements of what somebody might want to brand as “fake.” This is the reality of news reporting and the consumer of this information should always be discerning.

This new term “fake news,” to me smacks of a new censorship that ultimately could do more damage than what inaccurate news could ever do on its own.

I will respectfully decline to sign your pledge.

Kevin Lundberg
Colorado State Senate

I disagree with Lundberg, because the fake news pledge, developed in response to Colorado lawmakers who spread fake news last year, specifically allows him to post “out of the mainstream” news on his Facebook page, even if mainstream news outlets find it to be false. All he has to do is defend it.

And if spotlighting the term “fake news” “smacks of a new censorship” and risks causing more damage than inaccurate news is currently causing, than how can we challenge misinformation? What terms can we use to talk about falsehoods without being accused of censorship?

But I do appreciate Lundberg taking time to explain his position on the fake-news-pledge to me. It’s a step toward creating the civil, factual discourse that the pledge seeks to nurture.

Still, lawmakers who disagree with Lundberg can sign the pledge here. Citizens sign here.