Archive for the 'fake news' Category

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.