Fake News Sites

I understand satirical sites like The Onion, but lately there seem to be a lot of fake news sites that are not funny and seem to exist solely to spread misinformation. I have seen a number of humorless fake news and history stories spread on social media recently. And an archaeologist friend had his image used without his permission in one ridiculous story. I am wondering what, if anything, can be done to combat this. Thanks!

Since the OP is looking for advice, let’s move this to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Are you talking about, like, Fox for example?

This might be attacked two ways: Did the person who owns the copyright to the image give permission? Does the state or region where the historian lives recognize personality rights in this instance? They’re not the same, and even if the website got permission from the copyright holder, they might have to deal with the consequences of not having gotten permission from the subject of the photograph, your friend.

It’s possible none of this is relevant, and the copyright angle would likely be a lot more likely to pan out, but your friend should talk to a lawyer just in case.

They are click-baiters. A couple months ago I pitted one of the worst of them, National Report. They hide under the cloak of satire, but do all they can to obfuscate that they are not true. This increases how often they are shared on social media, increasing click, increasing ad revenue.

I don’t see much to do about it. You could encourage the ad-blocker apps and anti-malware apps to mark their sites as not-to-be-visited. You could write letters to those who advertise on their sites saying you will not buy their stuff, but they likely use ad services and I do not see that going well.

So long as there are a lot of gullible people who do not learn, I think they will flourish, and I don’t see us running out of those any time soon.

Yep. There was a nice article about this phenomenon a few months ago: The Great Satirical-News Scam of 2014.

Unless the news could be harmful, as for your friend with the picture, seems to me that fake news on the internet is a good thing. The “real” news is increasingly questionable in both quality of content (celebrity news, human interest stories, etc) and veracity because of the afformentioned need to generate clicks, so I say the more malarkey out there, the better. I mean, it’s not likely that the majority of people will spontaneously learn critical thinking skills, but at least if they’re constantly subjected to a barrage of lies and half-truths, they will learn to be skeptical of information in general. Who knows, maybe grandma will stop forwarding those chain emails about Obama being the antichrist.

Well, maybe that’s hoping too much, but you get the idea.

I think your giving people too much credit. More likely they will take it in along with everything else as the gospel truth (at least if it matches their pre-conceived political biases) and spread the disinformation as far as they can.

Or else they will decide that there is no truth and that every issue has two sides that are just as valid regardless of the facts supporting one side or the other.

That’s a great article, thank you for posting it. I’m going to share it on Facebook, though I doubt it will get read as much as the often posted click-bait articles.

That seems wildly optimistic. There was an article on Cracked a little while ago, 4 Reasons Facebook is Actually Making the World Less Stupid, when it was announced that Facebook would start adding the “satire” tag to the Onion and for these fake news websites that have articles that go viral. It’s a good thing, and it sounds like it might help filter some of these “satirical” articles out of people’s newsfeeds. People will see that the article “Marijuana Cures Hepatitis C, Research Shows” is from NationalReport.net and is labeled as satire and won’t share it as much. But there are plenty of bullshit articles on “real” news websites that will still be widely shared because they seem legitimate.

I don’t know how things can be improved for that, other than better education for everyone about being skeptical. But I think the problem is also the training that writers get for news websites is inadequate, and quality journalism is not seen as necessary today, since it’s the click-bait stuff that gets the eyeballs and advertiser money. I don’t know what the solution is.

Thank you all for the helpful feedback. Sam, I’ll try contacting Facebook to add my two cents in favor of tagging alleged satire as such. Ultrafilter, thank you for the excellent article.

Here is the recent fake story that broke the metaphoric camel’s back:

And here is where they stole the photo:

They will not answer emails or allow relevant comments to be posted. While this one example seems mild (it just happened to hit close to home), I have encountered an increasing number of false news stories from this site and others shared with me as fact. I find the proliferation of deliberate misinformation disconcerting. There have always been those motivated to generate false information to allay public fears about a product (e.g. cigarettes), incite political movements, or even fuel genocide (Goebbels). But manufacturing and spreading disinformation indiscriminately and on this scale seems to be a new and potentially dangerous phenomenon. I sincerely hope that inedible knapsack’s prediction is correct, though I fear that Buck Godot’s scenario may be accurate for far too large a segment of our population.

I think Snopes actually puts out the National Report on the down low. They like those fish-in-a-barrel refutations.