Fake News for the Week Ending February 21, 2020

There’s lots of fake news news this week, so let’s dive right in:

  • A top election security official briefed the House Intelligence Committee that Russia is already interfering with the 2020 presidential election with the goal of re-electing Donald J. Trump, by hacking into computer systems, weaponizing social media, and attacking election infrastructure. If that wasn’t bad enough, Trump became irate about the facts themselves (he thinks it’s all a “hoax”) and that the facts were transmitted to his “enemies” in the House. He was so enraged that he fired acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, whose office briefed the committee. It’s a massive story that shows how Russia is already achieving its goals of destabilizing our democracy and electoral system through its disinformation campaign. CNN has the story.
  • Following his disastrous performance in this week’s Democratic presidential debate, late-entrant billionaire candidate ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted a doctored video that made it look like he had a hugely successful moment in the debate. (Spoiler alert: He didn’t.) Experts are calling this fake video dangerous and unethical and something a serious presidential candidate shouldn’t be distributing. Vox has the story.

  • As reported previously, there are lots of coronavirus conspiracy theories making the rounds. Unfortunately, some of these irresponsible fictions are being spread by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR). Cotton claims he’s not spreading conspiracy theories but rather a “hypothesis.” Nope, his claims that an unnamed “expert” says it’s “possible” that the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan super lab is pure speculation at best and dangerous fearmongering at worst. The Daily Beast lays it all out.
  • Also from the Daily Beast, some good reporting on why people are and historically have been wrong about basic social and political facts. Such as the “facts” that 24% of teenage girls in the U.S. get pregnant every year (it’s just 2%), 33% of the U.S. population are immigrants (it’s around 14%), and Muslims represent 17% of the U.S. population (nope, just 1%). It’s a matter of our brains being wired to focus on negative information, our susceptibility to the view that everything is going downhill, our prioritizing things that worry us, and a reliance on our pre-existing views. Read it here.
  • The latest conspiracy theory to go viral falsely claims that Democratic leaders coordinated the June attacks on two oil tankers and a U.S. drone and that President Donald Trump caught them in the act. It’s all blatantly false; Iran was behind the whole thing. FactCheck.org sets the story straight.

Annotation 2020-02-21 205924

 

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