Fake news is a big problem. In the post-fact world where anyone can write anything and post it on the internet, the cottage industry of “fake news” has exploded. Here’s the thing; the only way fake news works, is if its readers are gullible. We saw the extreme of this gullibility when a deranged vigilante threatened pizza restaurant employees over a fake news story.
The term for this phenomenon used in more formal debate circles is “confirmation bias.” Many people scour the internet looking for stories that confirm what they already believe to be true, rather than weighing the evidence and forming an opinion based on the evidence.
Given the proliferation of fake news, NPR spent some time tracking down one of the kings of this new industry in order to find out more.
According the piece, they discovered the owner of a fake news site called Denverguaridan.com. This site came to NPR’s attention because it published a story under the headline, “FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide.” By the way, that story is utterly false. That didn’t stop it from being shared on Facebook over half a million times.
Through quite a bit of digging, NPR found the author of that piece, Jestin Coler, and fascinatingly enough discovered his motive. Coler told NPR:
“The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction.”
What Coler did not realize at the time was that many right wingers simply don’t care about the truth.
“It was just anybody with a blog can get on there and find a big, huge Facebook group of kind of rabid Trump supporters just waiting to eat up this red meat that they’re about to get served. It caused an explosion in the number of sites. I mean, my gosh, the number of just fake accounts on Facebook exploded during the Trump election.”
Interestingly enough, Coler said his writers have tried to write fake news for Liberals, but they just never took the bait. He said:
“We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.”
Alas, Liberals can take some comfort in knowing that we remain the defenders of critical thought.
Watch this CNN segment on the plague of fake news:
Featured image via Pinterest screengrab.