MPs to investigate threat to democracy from ‘fake news’

Introduction — Jan 30, 2017

dees Putin media
Make no mistake, “fake news” originated with the very people who are now pushing the fake news narrative. The main source is the mainstream news media itself and it has been around for as long as there has been propaganda.
Remember Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and all the journalistic speculation there was about that? Of course Saddam’s WMD are now widely seen as a fallacy. However, it took years for them to be exposed but in the process they paved the way for the Iraq invasion and the deaths of hundreds of thousands.
That was only one example. Since then we’ve seen a string of fake news stories, in large part based on unfounded journalistic speculation that has helped further Western foreign policy.
Apart from Saddam’s WMD readers will recall reports about Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. For a while such reports were a staple in the corporate media, until their authenticity was called into question (here, here and here. Whereupon stories concerning Assad’s use of chemical weapons went the same way as those concerning Saddam’s WMDs.
Readers will also recall Iran’s fabled nuclear weapons program. As far back as 1979 warnings were being sounded about the impending nuclear threat posed by Iran. That also proved to be entirely baseless but it didn’t stop the corporate media speculating about the supposed threat, for decades.
However, there is a brand new twist to this particular story. Because now the accusation of “fake news” is being levelled at independent Internet news outlets by the corporate media. This is being done in an effort to restore the corporate media’s fading credibility.
What follows suggests that the corporate media and the powers they serve are getting seriously worried about the independent Internet media. Allegations of “fake news” are being used in an attempt to cast doubt on the independent media’s credibility. In the process however, the presstitutes are entangling themselves ever deeper in a web of half-truths and downright lies.
In the following, for example, it’s claimed:
A conspiracy theory spread on fake news websites that Clinton and the Democratic party were operating a paedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant in Washington. This led to a gunman opening fire on the Comet Ping Pong establishment in early December; no one was hurt.
Comet Pizza. Click to enlarge

Comet Pizza. Click to enlarge

What it omits to say is that the gunman, Edgar Maddison Welch, is an actor who was playing his part to discredit stories about Comet Ping Pong, and paedophile rings operating among Washington’s power elite.
It also omits to elaborate on the exact nature of the “conspiracy theory” linked to Comet Ping Pong. This involved explosive reports linking Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, with paedophile rings and Madeleine McCann: including photos, police sketches of Madeleine McCann’s abductors and compelling circumstantial evidence.
None of this is even hinted at, let alone examined in what follows. Instead we get what is essentially more fake news masquerading as the real thing. Ed.

MPs to investigate threat to democracy from ‘fake news’

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff — The Guardian Jan 29, 2017

The phenomenon of fake news is to be investigated by a group of influential MPs following concerns that knowingly false articles posing as journalism could become a threat to democracy.

The inquiry, launched by the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee, will seek to determine an industry-standard definition of fake news, identify those susceptible to being misled and investigate how the BBC might have a bearing on its proliferation in the UK.

It will also examine whether search engines and social media companies, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, need to take more of a responsibility in controlling fake news, and whether the selling and placing of advertising on websites has encouraged its growth.

Conservative MP Damian Collins, chair of the culture, media and sport committee, said: “The growing phenomenon of fake news is a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general.

“Just as major tech companies have accepted they have a social responsibility to combat piracy online and the illegal sharing of content, they also need to help address the spreading of fake news on social media platforms. Consumers should also be given new tools to help them assess the origin and likely veracity of news stories they read online.

“The committee will be investigating these issues, as well as looking into the sources of fake news, what motivates people to spread it, and how it has been used around elections and other important political debates.”

Fake news is widely considered to be the proliferation, through social media and the internet, of inaccurate and untruthful news stories, sometimes written by outlets posing as legitimate media organisations.

After the US presidential election, the phenomenon received widespread attention, with the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton commenting that fake news had become an “epidemic”.

A study from economists at Stanford University and New York University dismissed the notion that fake news had swung the US election in favour of Donald Trump, but did say “that fake news was both widely shared and tilted in favour of Trump”.

According to the research, of the known false news stories that appeared in the three months before the election, those favouring Trump were shared a total of 30m times on Facebook, while those favouring Clinton were shared 8m times.

Analysis by Buzzfeed also showed there was a huge spike in engagement with fake news during the final three months of the campaign when compared with reports from outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN.

A conspiracy theory spread on fake news websites that Clinton and the Democratic party were operating a paedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant in Washington. This led to a gunman opening fire on the Comet Ping Pong establishment in early December; no one was hurt.

The interest in fake news has grown since the term entered the mainstream. Trump took to Twitter at the weekend to make his latest assault on the press, stating that the “fake news and failing” New York Times should be bought by someone who might run it correctly.

Trump, and many of his followers, have turned the phrase on its head and use it to condemn the mainstream media.

Last week, the Trump aide Steve Bannon, formerly chairman of the far-right Breitbart News website and now a counsel to the president, also called the mainstream media “the opposition party” to the current administration.

But fake news is not confined to America. In December in the UK, the England rugby star James Haskell was forced to deny news stories that emerged on social media that he had died of a steroid overdose. Haskell called the reports “absolute rubbish”.

In January, a Labour party inquiry was launched into the practice. Michael Dugher, the MP who is leading the inquiry, wrote in the Guardian that “the Labour party, who have so often been on the wrong side of misrepresentation and unfair attacks from the rightwing media, have a responsibility to be vigilant and reject fake news material on social media and elsewhere – even if it purports to come from the left”.

The inquiry is due to report in the spring. It will look at the practical, political and ethical questions raised by fake news, as well as examining what more social media and news websites could be doing to make sure readers see a wider variety of views.