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April 21, 2017, 10:17 a.m.
Audience & Social

A new database of fake news sites details how much fakery has spread from Trump v. Clinton to local news

Plus: The New York Times walks back an extremely popular tweet, California adds media literacy to its curriculum, and the KIND Foundation tries out a “Pop Your Bubble” app that nobody is going to want to use.

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

“The reasons aren’t always apparent.” PolitiFact, one of Facebook’s partners in its hoax-combatting program, published a list of 156 “websites where we’ve found deliberately false or fake stories” since beginning the Facebook partnership. The sites are divided into four categories: “Parody or joke sites,” which contain some disclaimer somewhere that they are meant to be satire even if there’s nothing particularly funny about them; “news imposter sites” (“these sites attempt to trick readers into thinking they are newspapers or radio or television stations,” like CNNews3.com, which uses a logo similar to CNN’s); “fake news sites” (“most of these sites join services like Content.ad or RevContent.com that allow them to post a collection of provocative ads to make money off clicks”); and “sites that contain some fake news.”

PolitiFact attempted to identify where each site was registered, which was often “exasperatingly difficult” because many of the sites use registration services to hide their information from the public.

There’s also fake local news. PolitiFact’s Joshua Gillin writes:

[Some] imposter websites appear to bank more on readers zeroing in on things they want to hear more about.

We found an entire family of sites that created different versions of posts keyed to town names, apparently to generate advertising revenue. These sites have official-sounding names like 16WMPO.com, KY12News.com, Local31News.com and more, posting various versions of stories that falsely claim an event has happened.

These posts, with only slight variations in details, say a celebrity’s car broke down in a particular place, that a celebrity is moving to a certain town or, say, that the next Star Wars movie is being filmed nearby.

Two California bills pass to address fake news. Two bills that aim to increase students’ media literacy passed in California this week (SB 135, AB 155).

“Developing a comprehensive media literacy curriculum is critical to combatting fake news,” California state Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, told The Davis Enterprise. “While information has become more accessible than ever, many lack the tools to identify fake or misleading news and information. By giving students the proper tools to analyze the media they consume, we can empower them to make informed decisions.”

We may have differences but we all like the same snacks. The KIND Foundation — apparently, the bars have a charity arm — introduced a Facebook app called “Pop Your Bubble“; install it to “add new perspectives to your Facebook feed.” Basically it looks at like every single thing in your Facebook profile (“your public profile, friend list, email address, timeline posts, birthday, hometown, current city and likes” — you can deselect some of these) and then comes up with a list of people who are different from you, and suggests that you follow them. Because you’re following them — not friending them — you’ll only see their public posts in your feed, and you may not see much or any of those, since Facebook’s algorithm is going to push their posts far below the ones you actually care about. KIND says that the people it suggests you follow “have volunteered to make their profiles public as part of the Pop Your Bubble experience.” It also suggests that you do the following:

To make sure the people you are following through Pop Your Bubble remain at the top of your feed, simply follow these steps:
Go to your personal Facebook profile page
Click on your “Activity Log” at top of your profile page
Scroll until you see the people you followed through the Pop Your Bubble experience
Click on the name of each person you followed — check out their profile while you’re there! At the top of each person’s profile page, it will say you are “Following” them; click that drop-down and set as “See First” and then click back to their profile page
Click back to your “Activity Log” to repeat same steps for each person you followed!

It turns out it’s quite a bit of work to see updates from complete strangers! I went through the steps once for the sake of testing, and followed five people. They had made very little content from their profiles public, so I mostly saw their cover photos of scenic places. One woman’s feed consisted primarily of pictures of her working out with her dog somewhere in the picture. I unfollowed all of them and disconnected the app.

“These photos lack context.” — @Patriots On Wednesday, @NYTSports tweeted the following:

The New England Patriots responded a few hours later.

@NYTSports then sent out another tweet:

“When one zooms in, it becomes clear that everyone in the 2015 picture isn’t actually a member of the Patriots roster — unless they’ve secretly had several women and older men on the team this entire time without anyone noticing,” wrote Townhall.com’s Christine Rousselle. Other conservative sites and Trump himself also picked up the story.

New York Times sports editor Jason Stallman told The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren:

Bad tweet by me. Terrible tweet. I wish I could say it’s complicated, but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I’m an idiot. It was my idea, it was my execution, it was my blunder. I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted much more time.

Once we learned more, we tried to fix everything as much as possible as swiftly as possible and as transparently as possible. Of course, at that point the damage was done. I just needed to own it.

I’m including this here not because I’m particularly interested in the weird ongoing Trump/Patriots thing but because I saw and liked the original @NYTSports tweet. I sympathize with Stallman and with others making decisions like this: It’s tough to convince yourself to hold back on a “decision in about four minutes” when the tweet you send as a result of that decision will be a huge hit, getting liked 78,000 times and retweeted 50,000 times. (The follow-up “correction” tweet, meanwhile, was retweeted just 777 times and liked 1,841 times. I’ve also been surprised by how many times I, a journalist who writes a column about fake news and media literacy, have quickly accepted and taken to be true things on Twitter that later turn out to be false or suspect (another example recently: the-journalists-found-the-wrong-guy-on-United, no-wait-they-didn’t). Okay, sorry for going all Liz Spayd on you.

Illustration from L.M. Glackens’ The Yellow Press (1910) via The Public Domain Review.

POSTED     April 21, 2017, 10:17 a.m.
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