Archive for the 'fake news' Category

Scott still owes the Sentinel and others an explanation for his ‘fake news’ posts and comments

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

ColoradoPolitics.com reported the response of Colorado State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) to Sunday’s announcement by Ray Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel, that he will not sue Scott for tweeting that the Sentinel is “fake news.” The blog reported:

Scott meanwhile seems bewildered by the latest development as well as the whole saga. He told our Joey Bunch late Monday, “It’s just weird.”

“The whole thing … is bizarre,” he said. “Now if I say this is a ridiculous op-ed he wrote, is he going to sue me? People can interpret that however they want, because it is bizarre and it is strange. Do I get sued for saying that?”

Scott won’t return my repeated calls, but someone should ask him for more details.

Why did he call the Sentinel “fake news” in the first place, undermining the newspaper’s credibility and viability, when he repeatedly posts Sentinel articles on Facebook that support his views or agenda.

And why does Scott post fake news (defined as “news” that’s been proven false by credible news outlets) on his own Facebook page? And refuse to take such items down, despite repeated requests to do so? (And while I’m at it, why doesn’t he sign the Fake News Pledge? He needs to do so.)

Scott has ducked questions by saying he’s been silenced by Seaton’s lawsuit. Now it’s time to get a full explanation from him.

What can you do to fight fake news?

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Common Cause Fake News Discussion & Happy HourFake news is obviously one of the greatest threats to democracy, yet there’s little grassroots activism combating it.

That’s why it’s great, necessary, and essential that Colorado Common Cause is hosting a discussion Thursday, April 6, on “Fighting Fake News in the Digital Age.”

The focus is on what we can do to combat fake news, besides complain about it and hope Facebook and Google do something for us.

Join the fake-news discussion and happy hour Thursday, April 6, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Irish Snug, 1201 East Colfax Ave. The program starts at 5:30.

RSVP via Colorado Common Cause’s Facebook-event page or by emailing cfry@commoncause.org.

One way to take action, which liberty advocate Ari Armstrong and I will discuss at the Common Cause event, is the Fake News Pledge. (Armstrong opposes it.)

By signing the pledge, lawmakers and citizens promise not to spread information, packaged somehow to look like news, on Facebook if it’s “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet.” If such information is accidentally posted, it will be removed unless “detailed reasons for not deleting it” are provided.

“We’ve all seen it before,” states Colorado Common Cause’s Facebook page promoting Thursday’s event. “Our neighbor, uncle, or friend posts something on a social media site that is factually inaccurate. How should we react? Can we agree on what is truth and what is fiction? And how do we combat “fake news” at a time when this term is thrown around so casually?”

Fake news pledge requires left and right to compromise

Monday, March 20th, 2017

If we’re going to fight fake news together, as conservatives and progressives, we have to agree on 1) a definition of fake news and on 2) a set of arbiters that will determine if a news story is fake.

In a post last week, Ari Armstrong argues that any news outlet can produce fake news, even the New York Times. I’d rather say outlets like the New York Times never produces fake news, because when they do it’s by accident, but I gave up on that a while ago and now agree with Armstrong that the definition of “fake news” should focus specifically on the accuracy of a news article, not its source.

That’s the definition embodied in the Fake News Pledge, which defines fake news as “inaccurate information, packaged to look somehow like news.”

This definition should be acceptable to both conservatives, who are skeptical of the New York Times, and progressives, who see look askance at Fox News.

But the sticking point is arbiters. Can conservatives and progressives agree on a way to decide what’s fake news and what isn’t?

Again, the Fake News Pledge offers a compromise.

The Pledge states that if a “news” item on Facebook is “deemed 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.”

Notice the phrase “respected news outlet” is not defined, so there’s space for progressives and conservatives to rely on different arbiters of truth. And there’s room to reject any arbiter simply by providing an explanation.

What good would this do? Signing the pledge shows a shared commitment to a set of loose ground rules for rational discourse, which is especially needed now on Facebook. The pledge is a statement that facts matter and that people, especially our elected leaders, who toss out dubious facts at least have the obligation to explain why they they think their facts are true.

 

Fake News Pledge edited to focus on inaccurate news, not on unproven news

Monday, March 20th, 2017

In response to suggestions by readers, the Fake News Pledge has been edited to focus narrowly on eliminating “false or inaccurate” fake news from Facebook, not on items that are “unproven.”

Under the slightly edited guidelines of the Fake News Pledge, Facebook users can post or share unproven information on Facebook, if they do not claim that such unproven information is true.

This does not mean that posting unproven news items is encouraged by the Fake News Pledge. On the contrary, some, but not all, unproven news can poison rational discourse in much the same way falsehoods do. But the purview of the Fake News Pledge covers accuracy only.

For example, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) recently called for an investigation into FBI leaks. And U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) called for in investigation into Trump’s actions in Russia. Both of these news items are unproven but neither is presented as true. Therefore neither would be considered fake news, under the new guidelines of the Fake News Pledge. On the other hand, Donald Trump’s statement that millions of illegal ballots were cast against him in the 2016 is unproven and false, under the guidelines of the Fake News Pledge.

The change was made after critics pointed out that unproven allegations, from trustworthy sources, have a place in civic discourse, as long as they not presented as true. It’s not the role of the Fake News Pledge to define the criteria that make unproven news, not presented as true, credible enough to spread on Facebook.

With respect to accuracy, which is now the sole purview of the pledge, the Fake News Pledge states that information, packaged somehow to look like news, should not be spread on Facebook if it’s “deemed unproven or false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet.” If such information is posted, it will be removed unless “detailed reasons for not deleting it” are provided.

“This isn’t fake!” writes lawmaker about an article from a newspaper he once called “fake news”

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Ray Scott cites sentinel non fake news 3-17

State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) calls the Grand Junction Sentinel “fake news“–until he finds a Sentinel story he likes. Then the fakeness is conveniently forgotten.

“Denver water attorneys against farmers,” wrote Scott on Facebook last week, referring to a Sentinel article by Charles Ashby about a bill stalled in the state legislature.

“This isn’t fake!” wrote Scott on Facebook.

Scott’s hypocrisy is so brazen yoScott Nov. 6 Wikileaks fake newsu honestly wonder how he could possibly justify trotting it out on Facebook.

But there Scott is, like Trump, undermining journalism by making sweeping and unsubstantiated accusations about the Sentinel one week. and then he’s using a Sentinel article he likes to promote himself and his agenda the next week. (The publisher of the Sentinel may sue Scott for damages.)

So crazy.

But as I’ve noted before, prior to his fake-news outburst last month about the Sentinel, Scott regularly posted Sentinel articles on Facebook–when he agreed with the reporting or found it useful.

And the truly sad part of all this: Scott still has actual fake news posted on his Facebook page! I doubt you’re surprised, but still. He’s not responded to numerous emails and phone calls from me asking that he remove it, like other lawmakers have.

Maybe Scott thinks his fake news, which informs us that “Hillary sold weapons to ISIS,” is real? I don’t think he even believes it, to be honest. But you’d think he’d remove it from Facebook, just to take the spotlight off his own ridiculous double standard.

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.