Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Truth be Told

This is not a credible news source. I do not generally start off my posts with statements like this, but after all of the fake news sources and stories being spread throughout Facebook during the past election and continuing still, I’m not sure what people believe anymore.

Throughout the election I kept seeing posts from people which obviously came from right or left minded groups but were easy to spread because they were written to agree with what the person sharing them wanted to believe, even if they weren’t true. I, like many Americans, made the false assumption that this was a minority of people, that the majority of our country had had to do a book report or two in their educational career and knew the importance of citing legitimate sources. I believed that after being told that these stories were not in fact 100% true, and in some cases not true at all, that people would look into it a little more and then feel silly, but would be more careful with what they posted and shared moving forward. But to be honest, I felt that they were so obviously false that I didn’t even need to say anything…as it turns out, I was wrong.

Here is a clip from the John Oliver show which you really should watch. It’s about a 30 minute segment so make sure you have some time to watch it all (you can maybe skip the last 5 minutes where they just run a montage of people saying “fuck 2016”) but the rest is really good, and depending on your hope for America, kind of sad:

If you don’t want to watch, here is some of the quality information taken from the show:

62% of America says they get their news from Social Media

44% of Americans get their news from Facebook specifically

Of the sites most shared on Facebook which sway towards the Right or Left, 38% of the Republican sites and 19% of the Democrat sites were found to contain some falsities or be a completely false reporting of facts and events. (A key here would be that any % is bad, Democrats aren’t better just because they have a smaller percentage, 19% is still way too much!)

The problem with these sites (Here’s a link to check out some of the ones people have identified) is that a lot of people are taking them as facts; I’m not the only one who made the mistake that people truly would be able to decipher the difference.

In Oliver’s show he talks about how President-Elect Trump even cited false data from stories during his campaign and when called out he responded, “What do I know about it, all I know is what’s on the internet.”

But he also fueled these fake news organizations with the things he was saying on stage at his rally’s and during the Presidential debates, one stat that was grossly falsified was when Trump claimed that 81% of whites were killed by blacks in gun deaths, when the accurate number was actually 15%. A claim that Bill O’Reilly called Trump out on.

The sad thing about all of this is not that it led to the election of Trump (It may have been one of the factors, but there were definitely more), but that we are willing to defend these sites as cold hard facts even after they are proven to be false. It has caused us to have a mistrust for the media (which isn’t entirely unwarranted) but most of the false claims aren’t coming from trusted sources such as The New York Times, Washington Post, or some of the other big papers out there. They’re coming from sources as listed on the link above and because of that we no longer trust papers that actually give a damn about the truth. Can they choose who to back and report more on positive stuff that they agree with? Absolutely. But they hold themselves to a higher standard whereas, even if that is the case, you can rest assured that the story will be truthful.

One of the underlying problems here is Facebook and social media in general. It has obviously evolved into a news source rather than just a gathering spot for individuals to share craft ideas, recipes, and give each other crap about fantasy football or deer hunting. My friend Chris had posted an article on Facebook, about Facebook (where I get my news)…my head may blow up…where they talk about it being time for Facebook to start to try and do something about this large stream of false news being propagated throughout their medium (HERE’s the link). When I first read the article another RLF native had commented that it would be a slippery slope, which I completely agreed with…but then I opened my eyes more to what was happening on the web site.

Each day I would log on and see so many of these false stories being shared and re-shared and commented on as fact and I was worried for where our country might lead if this is how we get our “news.” I thought maybe I should start to attempt to do something about it, so I started to comment on a few about how the story was false and then I would link to an actual news source for back up, or if someone just presented data, I asked for their source so that I could check it out.

The first one where I provided an actual news source didn’t have any follow up responses as of when I last checked here, but the second one where I asked for their source was what really got me.

The post claimed that Trump had won the popular as well as the electoral vote (which isn’t true – Clinton was up over 700,000 in the popular vote as of this posting) and was very detailed, going through the numbers in each state to show that Trump was the overall winner. The post also said, now we can stop the debate, here are the facts!

So I commented on the post, “Not that it makes any difference because Trump won the Electoral College and is in fact our President-Elect, but I was just wondering where you found this information as there has been a lot of false news reports out there and I am just looking for Trust Worthy sources.”

Obviously I was being a bit condescending as I knew the information to be false, but I just wanted people to start to think about checking their sources a little more.

The response: The person deleted my comment.

I would have been fine with them deleting the post, I would have been fine with them deleting my comment and then saying in their post, “according to …..” to show where they found the information, but by deleting the very question as to the source of the material the person was willfully spreading lies, in which case they were no better than the fake “news” outlet in which they were spreading falsities. So is the power of Facebook. People who read his post who do not question it will share it as fact and will debate it with fury, but the truth is we’re no better than the people who are trying to profit off of advertising revenue generated by these false sites, the only difference is they’re running a business and we’re running from the truth.

Next time you have to help your child with a book report and have to find at least three credible sources to support your claims, please do me a favor and cite some of the sites you are posting about on Facebook. Let’s see how it turns out when the site doesn’t hold out in academia but is spouted as truth to your friends and family on social media.

Think it doesn’t matter? Kids come on my bus telling me that Hillary wanted to take everyone’s guns away…show me a credible article where she states that. Now remember that the next Presidential election will be held in 2020, so the kids I see on my bus, 14 and up, they’ll be part of the voting process…let us just hope they have the gull to actually know that they are voting based on facts rather than what “100% Fed Up” or “Occupy Democrats” is reporting as facts. Let them learn from our mistakes, and let us start to question our sources once again.

We get to choose the media we read and believe, the results of the this past election may have been swayed by false news sites, but in reality we have no one but ourselves to blame. We demand better from our youth, it’s time that we start to demand better from ourselves. I know the slogan for terrorism is; “If you see something, say something.” So if you really want to protest, let’s protest these false sites by calling them out. But don’t just yell at your friends and tell them they’re wrong; point them in the right direction. Check their source and then find out if it’s accurate or if you find it not to be, point them in the direction of where they can find accurate information. It will be hard as people are pretty sensitive to being told they’re wrong (especially after finding a “news source” that specifically tells them they’re right) but be persistent…the fate of our democracy lies in our hands.

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