Another example of fake news

This item appeared in my Facebook crap feed yesterday and linked to a supposed news report. I searched Google News and Bing News for reports about Jimmy Hoffa, “22 bodies”, and “Flint River” and neither returned any relevant stories related to this, a sure sign of creative fake news driving Likes, Shares and selling eye balls to advertisers.

It just never ends, does it?


‘Fake news’ becomes a business model: researchers

Is this fake news? Duh? Hello? I’ve been writing about this for a long time and researchers just notice that “fake news” is “a profitable business model”?

Cyber criminals have latched onto the notion of “fake news” and turned it into a profitable business model, with services starting at under $10, security researchers said Thursday. The online security firm Digital Shadows released a report highlighting services aimed at creating bogus media

Source: ‘Fake news’ becomes a business model: researchers

Good grief, such insight!

“Like any good news story, content will be shared, liked, reposted and distributed across many different platforms and channels,” the report said.


Holland said misinformation has been around for a long time but that “what has changed in the digital world is the speed such techniques spread around the world.”

Really? I would have never guessed!


No, the “OK” Gesture Is Not a Hate Symbol

Has the simple thumb-and-forefinger “OK” hand gesture become a white supremacist hand sign?

Source: No, the “OK” Gesture Is Not a Hate Symbol says the Anti-Defamation League.

Another day, another Internet meme – this time claiming that people making a popular “Ok” symbol with their thumb and index finger are actually expressing a symbol for “white power”. This in turn has been used to publicly accuse people who display the “ok” symbol as clandestinely flashing a white power symbol.

All thanks to social media propaganda!



Washington Post, Miami Herald, CBS, Vox, Buzzfeed sourced stories from Russian social media propaganda

Major US “news” publishers cited tweets now known to originate from propagandists in Russia as the source for their reporting.

As you know, social media is always a reliable source for your news reports. Not. A legitimate question is why do all media now source content from unverifiable social media? From the Washington Post to the local TV news – all of them do this routinely.

The mass media that relies on social media becomes a conduit in the propaganda war. Journalists, of all people in the world, should be hyper sensitive to the use and abuse of propaganda.


“The extent to which legitimate, mainstream news outlets picked up and amplified Russian misinformation is an illustration of its pernicious reach”

And it is not just “Russian misinformation” – the root cause problem is that social media is a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda by anyone, at zero cost. Everyone is spreading propaganda and misinformation.

If we focus on just that originating in Russia, we not only permit other propaganda originators to flourish, we encourage it!

The Washington Post, Miami Herald, InfoWars and other U.S. sites spread Russian propaganda from Twitter

Avoid Online reviews were censored, worked as propaganda

Update: TripAdvisor claimed to have apologized about deleting negative reviews but it turns out they lied about their apology: They had not apologized to the victim. One Senator is requesting the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate TripAdvisor over their use of false reviews. TripAdvisor’s stock price fell this week from about $40/share to $31/share and one analyst is forecasting a $28/share price. In August, several analysts had forecast $44-$47 share prices for TRIP.


As noted previously, online reviews of products and services are subject to manipulation. The problem is so bad that at least two online businesses help you identify fake reviews on FakeSpot and ReviewMeta.

TripAdvisor is an online web site that offers user written travel reviews. But they did not disclose that TripAdvisor deliberately censored certain negative reviews of travel destinations and services according to a long report by USA Today.

TripAdvisor intentionally removed factual negative reviews – such as those by victims of crime and women who were sexually assaulted at facilities. In one example, TripAdvisor removed 27 negative reviews of one resort. Additionally, many of TripAdvisor’s “destination experts” who act as moderators have financial interests in the destination – such as they run a business in the area.

TripAdvisor did not disclose to users of the web site that they censored certain negative reviews.

TripAdvisor is an ad-based service that receives a commission when users click through links on the site to book hotels, for example.

Censorship and Cherry-Picking

Consequently, TripAdvisor became a propaganda operation – using the method of censorship to create artificially positive views of destinations and travel services. The effect is to present users with a cherry-picked selection of overly positive reviews – by censoring truthful bad reviews.

USA Today: TripAdvisor removed warnings about rapes and injuries at Mexico resorts, tourists say.

Update: TripAdvisor says they are no longer censoring reviews.

TripAdvisor official statement acknowledges they did indeed censor certain reviews in the past and blames it on a “family friendly” wording policy such that reporting about a crime in a review was not “family friendly”. TripAdvisor continued this policy for many years, in spite of numerous users trying to get their attention.

The company has a conflict of interest in that their income comes from ad-sales and especially commissions paid by destinations when users click through to purchase travel services.

What we need next is an online review web site – that reviews online review web sites! And which will be filled with bogus reviews too!

Zuckerberg says Facebook is open to social media laws regarding foreign interference

“I’ve expressed how upset I am that the Russians tried to use our tools to sow mistrust,” he said. “What they did is wrong and we are not going to stand for it. For those who have followed Facebook you know that when we set our minds to something, we’re going to do it.”

Source: Zuckerberg Is ‘Dead Serious’ About Russia, Open to Legislation – Bloomberg

Unfortunately, as documented on this blog, there is extensive creation and distribution of fake news and related propaganda from people in the United States.

The root problem is that share-able social media is a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda messaging. No one has identified an effective solution to corral this serious problem.

Faceback ads reach 4 out of every 3 teens in the U.S.!

Facebook ads also reach 12 out of every 7 young adults in the U.S.!

Facebook makes up their advertising reach numbers:

According to Facebook, there are 41 million adults between the ages of 18 and 24. However, according to data from the U.S. census, there are just 31 million. Facebook also says there are 60 million between the ages of 25 and 34, while the U.S. census puts its estimate at just 35 million.

Source: Facebook Claims It Reaches More People Than the U.S. Census Data Says Exist – Adweek

And apparently for just $100,000, you can reach 126 million people!

For just a few million $s you could reach trillions of people on earth!


I have not written much about the use of Facebook by propagandists linked to Russia.  These stories may be standard issue social media-based fake news using inflammatory posts designed for online sharing, with the goal of driving eye balls to ad filled web pages. In other words, it just a business.

Teens in Macedonia and other countries (not just Russia) are making a great income writing fake news stories for sharing and selling eyeballs to advertisers, targeting political activists in the U.S.

There are a great many documented fake news publishers, operating on this business model because it works and its profitable!

Inflammatory issue-oriented ads and fake news posts said to have originated with in Russia may be social media-based online publishers, selling eyeballs to advertisers. Who knows? May be there is more to the story but after a year of government investigations, the story mutated from Russia hacked the election to someone in Russia bought Facebook ads and posted fake news. This sounds similar to a classic social media-based, online, for profit, fake news publishing model. There are more descriptions of the postings in this article and they sound a lot like fake news publishing. (Update – But also see this newer post about Internet Research [Agency] – they use the methods of fake news publishers but their goal may not be making a profit. Their social media activities took all sides – for and against candidates and issues: “Their goal is to create confusion and dissent. The target is the U.S. and NATO, not any particular candidate. They just want chaos“.)

The real story here is how surprisingly easy it is for anyone to use Facebook, Twitter and Google as a platform for the mass dissemination of propaganda messaging.

Continue reading

Did an Iranian immigrant start California fires? NO.

This fake news nonsense came through my Twitter feed today.

The story traces back to this fake news web site.

Source: Fact check: Did Illegal Muslim From Iran Started California Wildfire – ayupp

Answer: NO, the entire story is fake.

Note that this item has been shared 471 times and liked 330 times on Twitter. Of the 105 comments, very few pointed out that its a fake news story.

The photo, which is easy to cross check, is of a Palestinian who “carried out on Friday a stabbing attack in Halamish settlement in which three Israelis were killed and a fourth was injured”

There is more in the online magazine about the related trial which took place in September 2017.

Google AdWords put fake news ads on fact-checking web sites

Funny – Google’s Adwords system has been placing “fake news” ads on web sites like that do fact checking about, often enough, fake news.

Source: Google reportedly put fake news ads on fact-checking sites – CNET

Most professional media sites run fake news advertising right alongside the legitimate stories and advertising. Obviously, they do it to generate revenue but lumping fake news with real news seems a bad choice. Especially if you miss the small, greyed out  “Sponsored content” hovering nearby.

“Violence towards cops skyrocketed in 2016”? Or How to create an inflammatory headline?

Newsweek “Violence towards cops skyrocketed in 2016 and whites are mostly responsible

“More cops were killed in the line of duty last year than in any year since 2011, leading many, including some in the FBI, to falsely connect the increase in violence with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. “

Chart of officer deaths from 2017 to 2016:

Data in the chart is from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund

The Newsweek report correctly cites the “felonious assault” number, which is separate from “accidental deaths”. For 2016, the combined total is 118.

The NLEMF numbers refer to total deaths and their count of total deaths is different than the FBI numbers (FBI data is from here). This may be, in part, due to the NLEMF including officers who died from having a heart attack while on duty, as well as some additional categories of deaths that are different than what the FBI counts as an officer death.

Seeing the overall context during the past 100 years, did violence against cops “skyrocket in 2016”?

The trend has been remarkably downwards since 1971, in spite of the U.S. population increasing by about 1% per year and the number of police officers in the U.S. increasing per year. What we saw in 2016 is a large percentile increase in a relatively small number (66). During the previous 10 years, the number of officers killed in felonious assaults, per the FBI, varied from a low of 27 in 2013 to a high of 72 in 2011.

The annual year-to-year variation is large and while the “61%” year over year hike sounds like a lot, it is within the normal annual variation in this number.

But the news coverage lacks context so that readers or viewers are not informed – they are being told what to think.

How others headlined this story:

  • FBI report accounts for 118 police officers who died on duty in 2016
  • FBI says US police deaths spiked 61% in 2016
  • FBI: Over 57000 Police Officers Assaulted in 2016
  • Jeff Sessions Calls 61% Spike in Law Enforcement Officer Murders ‘Shocking’ and ‘Unacceptable
  • Number of cops killed in the line of duty rose in 2016
  • FBI: 118 police officers killed on the job in 2016
  • 2016 was a deadly year for law enforcement

News services that have a track record of “hyping” stories (both on the left and right) used provocative headlines while those that report more like traditional, objective news services use the milder, non pejorative headlines.

And then there is Newsweek:  “Violence towards cops skyrocketed in 2016 and whites are mostly responsible

Which publication headlines from the above are using online, for profit, fake news publishing techniques and which are not?

Note – all officer deaths are sad. This post is not about that, however. This post is an illustration of fake news techniques employed by a conventional news publisher to enhance the emotional response of the targeted reader. Newsweek is intentionally manipulating your emotional response in the style of yellow journalism (emphasizing “sensationalism over facts”).

Unfortunately, a large segment of the U.S. media has reverted to the techniques of yellow journalism.

Learn to recognize this style of news – and avoid such publishers – learn to think for yourself.