Archive for the 'fake news' Category

In deleting fake news from her Facebook page, and owning her mistake, state representative is model for all lawmakers

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

At a time when the president of our country sets an example as a liar who refuses to correct his own brazen falsehoods, Colorado State Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver) should be considered a hero for deleting a fake news item that she shared on Facebook earlier this month–and taking public responsibility for the mistake.

After deleting the post, which showed Trump’s parents in KKK garb, Lontine explained on her Facebook page that she holds herself “accountable to not spread fake news of any kind.” She also thanked “those who held me accountable.”

In removing her post, deemed “false” by Snopes, Lontine joins two other Colorado lawmakers who’ve done the right thing and removed fake news from their Facebook pages after being alerted to its fakeness.

In December, without commenting, two Colorado Republicans removed fake news from their Facebook pages (State Rep. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park and former State Rep. Kit Roupe of Colorado Springs). Two other Republicans said they would not remove it (former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs and State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton) And two did not respond to my request that it be deleted (State Rep. Ray Scott of Grand Junction and former State Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada). Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) removed a tweet without comment.

Lontine, however, did more than just delete the post. She owned the mistake.

As far as I know, she’s the first Colorado lawmaker to delete fake news and then acknowledge it on Facebook, as stipulated by the Fake News Pledge, which Lontine and other lawmakers have signed. Here’s Lontine’s Facebook post on the matter:

Folks, yesterday I posted a picture of President Trump and his parents that looked like his parents were wearing KKK outfits.

Turns out, the picture was photoshopped to look like that. I posted it without checking its origin or veracity. I posted it because it confirmed my biases. I hold myself accountable to not spread fake news of any kind and thanks to those who held me accountable.

The response to Lontine’s correction on Facebook has been positive.

“This is why we love and trust you… you are always honest” wrote one commenter.

Lontine is a model for all lawmakers. She did exactly what all of us want and what the country badly needs at this moment. She’s showing us that anyone can make a mistake, even our leaders, and it’s honorable to make corrections. In response, we owe her our admiration–especially against the backdrop of Trump’s brazen lying.

For those of you who think I’m praising Lontine too much: Normally, you might be right. This should be leadership-101 behavior.  But it shows how far our political discourse has fallen that a politician deserves such high praise for the simple act of correcting herself on Facebook. Yes, we’ve hit that low point. Now we need a wave of lawmakers to act responsibly and correct themselves, if they spread fake news. Imagine if all politicians, including Trump, would do so.

Can conservatives and progressives trust journalism for the sake of fighting “fake news?”

Friday, May 19th, 2017

To fight fake news in a bipartisan way, Republicans and Democrats need to find it in themselves to trust professional journalism, while reserving verification rights.

We need to agree that the role of journalists is to enforce truthfulness as a basic ground rule for civic discourse, while advocates reserve the right, of course, to disagree with the conclusions of journalists.

So it kills me that conservatives, like Colorado State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), won’t accept respected journalistic fact checkers as arbiters of fake news.

But maybe there’s a road to compromise in liberty advocate Ari Armstrong’s thoughtful definition of fake news that he articulated last month–much of which I agree with.

Armstrong and I diverge from the thinking of most journalists on the definition of fake news, because we both define fake news based on the content of the news story, not its source. In other words, we both agree that a fake news story could come from the Washington Post, Brietbart, BigMedia.org, PeakPolitics.com, or TheFreePatriot.org.

If you define fake this way, you allow conservatives, who might hate the Washington Post, and progressives, who might hate Breitbart, to agree on a starting point to discuss how to address the fake news problem. So I accept the idea that any outlet could produce fake news partly for sake of compromise with conservatives.

But how could someone like me, who has such respect for journalism, possibly agree that the New York Times could be a potential source of fake news? Because, as Armstrong points out, a credible news outlet like the Times will go to great length not to make errors and to correct them quickly. So if it makes a mistake, and produces a fake news item, its fake news will likely be ephemeral fake news.

But even if we accept that any news source can produce fake news, we need a practical way for liberals and conservatives to agree on a definition of fake news.

This definition has to rely on arbiters, rather than an individual’s own case-by-case assessment, as proposed by State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and, in part, by liberty-advocate Ari Armstrong, because just like in any competition, partisans need referees to judge the game, in this case, to assess the facts.

That’s why it’s so unfortunate that most conservatives won’t name journalistic entities that can help us referee the facts. By doing this, they are rejecting the role of professional journalism in society.

Both Armstrong and Neville have rejected the Fake News Pledge, which is a promise not to post fake news on Facebook. It defines fake news as a story “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet.” It also must “packaged to look somehow like news.”

That definition could snag an article from the Times, but as a practical matter, it’s unlikely that a fact checker like Factcheck.org will find a factual error in a New York Times article before the Times corrects the error.

So I think the Fake News Pledge’s simple definition should work for conservatives and progressives.

But who’s optimistic? With Donald Trump’s constant berating of mainstream media as “fake news,” how could Trump followers ever accept journalists as arbiters of facts, especially given that everyday Republicans in America don’t seem to. The Pew Research Center reported this month:

Today, in the early days of the Trump administration, roughly nine-in-ten Democrats (89%) say news media criticism keeps leaders in line (sometimes called the news media’s “watchdog role”), while only about four-in-ten Republicans (42%) say the same.

That’s not encouraging for the prospects of Republicans accepting the Fake News Pledge and the role of journalist fact checkers as arbiters of fakeness. And it’s bad news, no matter how you look at it.

Bennet defends journalism, saying Trump has “hard time” distinguishing between reality and “somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet”

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet took the fight against fake news to the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, saying Trump resorts to “talking about ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like [journalists’] reporting” and that Trump has a “hard time” distinguishing between “something that is real” and “somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet.”

Bennet did not suggest, as I would have done, that Trump sign the Fake News Pledge for elected officials, but it’s great to a politician stand up for journalists, who are almost as unpopular as politicians themselves. Which is exactly why Trump attack them.

Bennet made the fake news remark as part of a blistering attack on Trump, focused on his firing of FBI Director James Comey but touching on Trump’s overall disrespect for American institutions of government.

Watch Bennet here.

And here are his comments on journalism and fake news:

Bennet (at 5:30): And [the American people] remember his attacks on the free press as well, when he doesn’t like their reporting and his resorting to talking about ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like their reporting. Mr. President, I have had to talk to so many high school students. and middle school students in Colorado over the last four or five months about this whole question of fake news and what the importance is of edited content to our society–and again to the rule of law. The importance that middle school students and high school students place on edited content on curated content, their ability to distinguish between something that is science or something that is real, something that is edited versus somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet. The president has a hard time making that distinction as well.

Woods posts fake news on Facebook

Friday, May 5th, 2017

woods trey gowdy 5-17Despite the example set by Trump, it seems that public figures in Colorado are being more careful about posting fake news on their Facebook pages than they were prior to the last election.

And to their credit, some officials in Colorado are removing fake news, if they are convinced it’s inaccurate.

But former State Rep. Laura Woods (R-Westminster), who lost her state senate seat in November, apparently hasn’t gotten the memo about how fake news rots civic discourse, not to mention representative government.

She apparently posted this fake news item, provided to me by a source, last week, headlined, “Trey Gowdy Breaks Silence After 2 of His Investigators Were Found Tortured and Killed-Proud Patriots.”

Woods apparently commented, “OM gosh…The Clintons’ trail of dead bodies is unbelievable. Hopefully Attorney General Sessions will take them down.”

It appears that Woods refused to remove the fake news, even after a someone on her Facebook feed pointed out that it was debunked by Snopes.

Woods doesn’t return my calls, but I invite her to sign the Fake News Pledge for Citizens here.

But it appears she may have found her own way to deal with Fake News, with a site offering right-wing radio host Mark Levin, right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, and others:

woods alt news site

El Paso GOP official removes fake news from his Facebook page

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

hosler fake news apil 2017Setting an example for Republican and Democratic officials, Joshua Hosler, Vice Chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, removed a fake news item he shared on Facebook, after he learned it was fake news.

The item, produced by ConservativeWorldDaily, alleged that the Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, banned the teaching of Islam in Public Schools. Hosler removed it, he told me via Facebook messaging.

In deleting the item, Hosler joins other officials, such as State Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park) and former State Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs), who both removed fake news from their Facebook pages last year in the wake of a BigMedia.org investigation. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) deleted a tweet with unsubstantiated information. Other officials, such as State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), did not remove fake news from Facebook.

BigMedia.org’s “BigMedia Factcheck,” which posts facts on the Facebook pages of officials to alert them to the presence of fake news on their Facebook pages, spotlighted the fake-news item in Hosler’s Facebook news feed, and he subsequently removed it.

The Facebook item shared by Hosler is not true, as explained by Factcheck.org:

No, the Supreme Court hasn’t decided that students can’t be taught about Islam in public schools. On April 11, fake news websites began publishing a bogus story that said “[t]he court ruled 5-4, with Justice Gorsuch casting the tie-breaker, that the only Islam taught to our children in public schools will be the history of Radical Islam and what they can do to help stop it.”

It alleged that newly installed Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, and then provided a faux excerpt that was filled with errors: “We should [sic] be teaching any religions in this country besides standard Judeo-Chritianity [sic], as our founders wanted, and we certainly shouldn’t be filling the children with lies about Islam being a ‘religion of peace’ when they see the carnage on the news almost every day.”

Suspicious Facebook users have rightly flagged the bogus story as potentially fake, using the social media site’s improved tools for reporting a hoax.

Hosler once ran for a State House seat held by former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt but was defeated.

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.