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FAKE VS. REAL NEWS

The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true—Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes we might disagree with the facts —Sean Spicer, WH Press Secretary, 1/23/17

What is fake news? The intentional spreading of lies disguised as truth for the purpose of misleading the public.

What is not fake news? Bias, opinions one doesn't agree with, unintentional human mistakes

8/17: NEW SITE tracks and posts content posted by Russian bots on Twitter: dashboard.securingdemocracy.org

BBC brief video on how Trump campaign partnered w/Facebook employees in exchange for millions, to aid Cambridge Analytica in psychological voter targeting to get Trump elected. "Without Facebook, we wouldn't have won."

(Scroll down to take immediate action)

UPDATE 10/11: Trump's increasingly frequent attacks on journalists, and the Russian and Ukrainian bots and trolls amplifying his words, represents a grave threat to the Fourth Estate (Take Action, below). 9/26: Facebook faces increased scrutiny over failure to catch Russian political propaganda ads. (NPR) 8/21: Four senior editors at the Los Angeles Times were fired today, suddenly, at once. Ross Levinsohn, who spent 7 years in Fox News' Media Division, is the new Publisher. Perhaps it was because yesterday, the 4 published Enough Is Enough: "The man in the White House is reckless and unmanageable, a danger to the Constitution, a threat to our democratic institutions." 8/17: The Alliance for Securing Democracy launches a twitter tracker for Russian propaganda on twitter. Visit it to inform yourself and others about how we're being influenced today: dashboard.securingdemocracy.org Older updates.

LEARN. (Scroll down to take immediate action.) Once upon a time, unethical media outlets who made up lies on purpose and circulated them in videos and documents as clickbait to earn money from advertisers, were called “fake news” outlets. That term has lately been co-opted (including by Trump and his Press Secretary) to mean news one doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with. However, there is a big difference between journalism and fake news. Journalists are trained to recognize and modify their own bias (we are all biased), and to have at least two reputable and verifiable sources for every assertion, which are checked by the editor of their newsroom before publication. Ethical news agencies articles are neutral in tone and not sensationalistic. They tend to use more nouns and verbs, and fewer adjectives. Note that social media posters and bloggers, although exercising their right to express an opinion, are not journalists. Although some actual journalists have started blogs, note that their work may or may not be checked/vetted. Some bloggers hold quite high standards for themselves (e.g., Riverdaughter's blog, The Confluence). Others may be making their living off of the clicks they get to their sites, and like all advertisers, know that sensationalism, with its appeals to fear, rage, and sadness, generates clicks. Once strong emotion is aroused in the limbic system of a reader, higher, rational cognitive functions are "turned off"–in other words, when we feel strongly, we can't think clearly to evaluate the information we're hearing and reading.

As we’ve seen, democracy and our foundational rights are under threat when we cannot trust the press. Take a look at the 2014 Most and Least Trusted News Outlets in the U.S.(Engel, Business Insider, 10/21/14). The Wall St. Journal, Economist, BBC, and Google News had the highest ratings; USA Today and ABC News next: these six were the most trusted by both liberals and all but the most consistent conservatives. At the moment, social media is NOT a reliable provider of news. Please seek your news from the journalistic press (which abides by journalistic standards), including foreign press (Canadian press, BBC, Guardian...). Foreign press is calming.

HOW TO COUNTER. In today’s world, make sure your news reflects reality and is verified by at least two independent sources. An Annenberg Public Policy Center study suggests ways to counter misinformation and correct fake news: "provide a detailed counter-message with new information - and get your audience to help develop a new narrative." Dealing with an alt-right (4Chan) troll? Here's how, from Seth Abramson–attorney, professor, freelance journalist.

RESTORE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE. Our current fake news horror show results from the repeal of The Fairness Doctrine. What was it? The main agenda for the doctrine was to ensure that viewers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints. It was introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1949, and made radio stations (and then, when television arrived, those networks) present issues in an honest, equitable, and balanced way. As a result, radio and television networks had daily news broadcasts which were uninterrupted and unsupported by advertising. There was no incentive for broadcasters to favor one position more than another, as their right to broadcast, and the content of the news, was not dependent upon ratings or advertiser dollars. In 1987, the FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine, presumably under pressure from President Reagan, and cable news was born. Cable news flourished. Media tycoons got richer (right-wing talk shows have been particularly lucrative). Democracy floundered. The Pew Research Center offers a chart of the partisanship and ideology of the viewer base of each television news program. Daily newspapers, morning and evening news appear to be the least partisan.

Here is where the Fairness Doctrine stands now. Here’s a description of its history, effects, and what must be done. Note that Vice-President Pence has tried to introduce The Broadcaster Freedom Act, a pleasant sounding name which ensures that no future president can bring back the Fairness Doctrine without an act of Congress. After all, fake news helped get Trump elected.

TAKE ACTION (see also, Freedom of the Press)

(1) Starve fake news outlets by contacting their advertisers and asking them to stop advertising there. Join @slpng_giants on facebook and twitter (you can search for it and read about it even if you’re not on twitter!). Read the Sleeping Giants FAQ. They’ve been very successful so far, resulting in over a thousand advertisers quickly removing ads (and the money they generate) from alt right fake news site, Breitbart. Breitbart already expanded its reach to influence German and French elections for far- and alt right candidates. Since Bannon has returned there, he appears to intend to further disrupt democracy in the U.S. (Tillett, 8/22/17, CBS News).

(2) Spot and avoid fake news, and teach others to do so, too: How to spot fake news in your Facebook feed (Willingham, CNN, 11/18/16), Fake or Real? How to self-check the news and get the facts (Davis, NPR, 12/5/16) Before forwarding a story, check to ensure it's from a reputable, journalistic source (see #5, below). Again, consider ignoring "news" on social media until those platforms get a handle on eliminating the ability of foreign agents to disrupt the electoral process of the United States via limbic system-activating "news."

(3) Work to restore the Fairness Doctrine. Contact your Congressional representatives in the House and Senate. Who are your representatives? General House of Representatives number in DC: 866-948-8977 General Senate number in DC: 866-985-2543 Don't know your Congressman's phone number? Call 202/224-3121, put in your zip. You’ll be transferred. Shy to call? Don’t be concerned; you’ll likely be sent to voicemail. Say you support the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine which required broadcasters to present a diverse range of perspectives on issues, not only one, distorted side. Express your concern that its repeal has undermined democracy and the Fourth Estate.

(4) Join the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international organization which (unbelievably) now has to work to protect the Fourth Estate in the United States.

(5) Choose carefully where you get your news! Subscribe to your local newspaper, and reputable, journalistic newspapers and support news sites listed close to the middle in the graphic below. They need our support more than ever. Consider checking foreign allies' press. You might be surprised how closely they are following what is happening here.

6) Here are more tips extracted from Riverdaughter’s excellent political blog, The Confluence (used with permission):

Avoid news sources that provoke an immediate emotional response, especially if it's fear or anger. Avoid ALL television and cable news programs. The combination of audio with visual cues is very powerful. Try radio, instead. Again, if you find yourself becoming fearful or angry, stop listening. Find reliable sources in print journalism. Read a wide variety of sources like the NY Times, Washington Post, ProPublica, The New Yorker, The Atlantic. Read foreign news sources, like The Guardian and Der Spiegel for a different perspective (use Google translate, if necessary). Consider alternate sources, like podcasts. [Recognize they may or may not be vetted.] Try The Weeds from Vox, Five Thirty Eight from Nate Silver and his data modelers, and TrumpCast with Jacob Weisberg from Slate. Lastly, check out this diagram of where news sources fall on the left-right, reliable-unreliable spectrum. If you are confused and distrustful about what and who to believe, stick to the top layer in the middle. Even the Wall Street Journal has a very good news bureau and high quality reporting:

 

Because the differences are so striking and had such extreme consequences for all of us, here's a comparison of differing press coverage of Clinton and Trump 7/16-9/16, followed by percentage of Clinton coverage (negative/positive) and election scandals in the press, by day:

 

Go to:

First Amendment: Freedom of the Press

Our foundational rights are threatened. Click-Learn-Act to save those you most value:
Environment (Climate Change, Endangered Species)
Human Rights (
Immigrant, LGBTQ, Voting, Women + Racism/Sexism)
Public Education (+ college affordability)
Foreign Policy (NSC, UN, NATO, Russia, nukes; Preventing War)
Healthcare
(ACA, mental health)

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