Fake News for the Week Ending June 19, 2020

There is almost too much news about fake news this week, but we’ll give it the old college try.

A tweet from president Trump shows a black child running away from a white child on a city street, with the news caption "Terrified todler [sic] runs from racist baby'
Manipulated media.
  • Twitter continues to grow a backbone and stand up to President Trump’s wildly misleading and outright false tweets. For the first time, Twitter labeled a Trump tweet as “manipulated media.” (The tweet included a video that purported to show a CNN video with a black baby running from a white baby, with the caption “Terrified toddler runs from racist baby.”) No doubt Mr. Trump will have something outrageous to say about this, but it’s good that Twitter is starting to hold Trump up to the same standards it holds the rest of its user base. (And it’s about time that Trump stopped using Twitter and Facebook to spread fake news.) The BBC has the story.
  • The legitimate press is starting to stand up to members of the Trump administration who continue to attack them as the “fake news media.” CNN’s Brian Stelter confronted Trump campaign legal advisor Jenna Ellis about this issue, saying “You understand that, like, some day you’re going to regret this, right? Some day you’re going to regret this, when your kids and your grandkids look back at this time, and you use slurs and smear us as fake news to hurt news outlets.” Ms. Ellis responded, “You’re not trying to do your job — you’re not a journalist, Brian. You’re an activist. That’s the problem. You have an agenda, and your agenda is anti-Trump.” The Independent has the story.
  • No, Shake Shack employees did not try to poison a group of NYC cops by pouring bleach into their shakes. (It was a typical accident where the shake-making machine wasn’t properly cleaned out.) This is just one example of how police across the country are using misinformation and flat-out fake news against peaceful protestors. Read the whole story in the Washington Post.
  • All about how the Trump-loving One America News (OAN) network sliced and diced a negative poll to make it look more favorable to the president. OAN highlighted selective facts to make it look like Trump is winning in a state (Florida) where his opponent, Joe Biden, is actually ahead. It’s a textbook example of manipulation to create fake news. Philip Bump at the Washington Post has the excellent analysis.
This is selective data; it’s about who undecided voters in Florida would support if they were forced to support one or the other. (Among decided voters, Biden was in the lead.)
  • The QAnon conspiracy theory continues to gain adherents. (The far-right theory says there’s a secret plot involving a group of pedophilic deep state elites working to get Donald Trump kicked out of office, or something like that.) Now there are a small handful of QAnon supporters running for Congress who are somehow winning Republic primaries. The Washington Post has the story.
  • Facebook is stepping up efforts to detect deepfake videos posted to its site, but with mixed results. Mashable has the story.
  • Officials from Facebook and Twitter testified before Congress that they’re seeing new tactics from foreign actors trying to spread disinformation on their networks. They’re seeing an increase in “inauthentic behavior” around the topics of the George Floyd protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. Read about it in The Hill.
  • This last bit would be funnier if it wasn’t true. Apparently Fox News fell for a Reddit post about the Seattle uprising that repeated a joke from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (“I thought we were an autonomous collective? An anarcho-syndicalist commune at the least.”) Yeah, those scary mud-farming peasants from King Arthur’s time are taking over the country. Mashable reports the story.
“I thought we were an autonomous collective.”

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