Fake News for the Week Ending January 25, 2019

Here are a few of the fake news items that occured this week:

  • The biggest fake news item this week concerns the incident involving students from Covington Catholic High School at the January 19th March for Life youth rally in Washington, D.C. An initial video showing a group of teens from the school apparently harassing a Native American veteran went viral and inspired much animosity towards the teens. A later, longer video revealed more nuance to the situation, with the teens themselves being earlier harassed by a group of Black Israelites, and the Native American inserting himself between the groups in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Right-wingers jumped on anybody and everybody, especially the mainstream and left-leaning media, for smearing the right-wing youths with the “fake news” video. Many media outlets apologized or revisited their coverage in the wake of the second video, which, while it didn’t necessarily absolve the teens of harassing behavior, did show that the situation was more complicated than initially thought. It’s unclear to me whether the initial coverage was “fake;” it wasn’t made up from whole cloth, instead seeming more like typical poorly-informed initial reporting, updated later when more facts came to light. The right, however, is glomming onto this as proof of “fake news” and anti-right bias in the mainstream media. The kids (and the Native Americans) seem caught in the middle. Read more (and perhaps make up your own mind) here.
  • There’s a meme going around that claims newly-elected U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez passed a “Change Unfit New Textbooks” Act requiring that school textbooks be scrubbed of any mention of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It’s not true, per Snopes.
  • Apparently someone on president Trump’s team has been digitally altering his photos on Facebook and Instagram to make Mr. Trump appear slimmer. (And with longer fingers!) Gizmodo reported it.
  • A new study from researchers at Northeastern University and Harvard University, published in the journal Science,  found that the majority of people sharing misinformation on Twitter during the 2016 US presidential elections were older, conservative users. And it’s a small number of people — less than 1/10th of 1% of users tweeted 80% of the fake news on Twitter. Read the whole story here.
  • Microsoft has added fake news alerts to its Edge web browser for mobile devices. The company is partnering with EdgeGuard to display warnings when visiting websites deemed untrustworthy. More info here.

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