The least and most trusted news sources in the United States

Which ones are the most widely shared on social media? (Story doesn’t answer that question)

Something you can do for fun – visit any of these organizations’ Facebook pages and FB will tell you which of your friends “like” that page. Kinda scary.

Source: These are the most — and the least — trusted news sources in the U.S. – MarketWatch

The survey was conducted by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

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Twitter launches tweet censorship program

Today, some tweets appearing on Twitter are accompanied by the following warning:

I did a search on Twitter for #DrudgeReport and found several (but not all) tweets mentioning #DrudgeReport had this warning. Drudge Report is a right leaning news aggregator that specializes, typically, in using inflammatory headlines to hook readers.

A search for #DrudgeReport using the “Latest” option presents this:

That is weird – it appears Twitter is fully censoring searches for items related to Drudge Report.

A search for #InfoWars for tweets related to the InfoWars conspiracy theorist displays tweets, without warnings.

A search for proven fake news service #OccupyDemocrats displays a long list of tweets, without warnings.

The algorithm used by Twitter is not clear to the user –  all we can tell at this point is that Twitter has censored Drudge Report.

Twitter, of course, like Facebook, is an unreliable source for any sort of information. Yet Twitter does not display a warning on itself, nor does it display a warning regarding links to Facebook.

Social media, as this blog has extensively documented, is a frictionless platform for the spread of propaganda. This blog, at times, intentionally searches for propaganda on social media to better understand how it works. By establishing a censorship program, Twitter blocks research into the use of their platform for propaganda messaging. Twitter is therefore no longer an information conduit but a publisher that uses censorship to control messaging.  In the blink of an eye, Twitter is itself an official propaganda publisher.

Rather than allow users to think for themselves, Twitter now does the thinking for you and is choosing what you are readily able to see or not see. Do you want to outsource your thinking to an unreliable social media propaganda platform?

The first story is the one that is remembered, even if wrong

TL;DR Summary

  • A media outlet ran a story with the headline “”Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point Scholarship“, based in part on muddled comments from Ben Carson that were not clear.
  • The false version of the story was picked up by media and spread rapidly on social media.
  • The story was eventually shown as incorrect and prominent media called the story a “lie”.
  • But the damage was done. Propagandists know that the first message received by the target, even if later found to be false, is the message mostly likely to stick with the target. This is why elegant lies are effective in persuading others. (Update: There are contemporary examples from the Trump administration saying things that are not true. I wrote this post, originally, in late 2015 but did not publish until January 2017.)
  • This post is not about Ben Carson but is about a propaganda method that is illustrated well by this story involving Ben Carson and Politico. Even though the initial headline and story were not correct, this is the “message” that will live on in the minds of the targets.

Kyle Cheney at Politico.com wrote a story titled “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point Scholarship“. After spreading online, both CNN and Washington Post  noted this headline was not true; Politico later revised the article and rewrote the headline.

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U.S. cities fall behind in wealth measure! :)

CaptureTL;DR Summary

  • From a design standpoint, this poster is effective. Readers likely see it, quickly nod agreement, and then click Like and Share!
  • It uses simple statements with an authority figure as the source of the quote.
  • Some of the claims are false or misleading, but they all seem plausible.
  • The poster works by making assertions (some of which are not true) and using an appeal to authority. The poster was designed to appeal to the preconceptions of its target audience, who subscribe to the fake news outlet. The goal of the poster seems to be that there is a lot of wealth and a lot of poverty in the U.S., therefore, wealth is bad (or poverty is bad or industrialization is bad or whatever). Since the quote/poster never says what the conclusion is supposed to be, the conclusion is left to your own (pre-conceived?) thoughts.

Poster Source

Since the post asks, “What’s wrong with this picture?“, let’s take a look!

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False: Trump Administration deleted “Climate change”, “LGBTQ” from WhiteHouse.gov

TL;DR Summary

  • The Daily Beast reported the Trump administration deleted references to “climate change”, “LGBTQ”, “health care” and “civil rights” and other topics from the whitehouse.gov web site.
  • Fake news and “real” news web sites promoted the theory that these topics were deleted as part of an upcoming period of darkness under the Trump administration.
  • My Twitter feed was absolutely filled with links to these stories.
  • Reality: As part of the change in administrations, the U.S. National Archives archived the Obama record at 12 noon, and cleared out the old web site, after which new content will be added. This pre-announced change was made by the National Archives and not by the Trump Administration.
  • This works as fake news propaganda by leaving out critical information (the National  Archives and the hand off process so that “What you see is all there is”), and the logical fallacy of “if something is not stated, then X must be true”. In this case, a lot of people imagined what they wanted to believe was true.

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False: President Roosevelt on why the minimum wage must be a living wage

CaptureTL;DR Summary

  • A true quote but taken out of context – the quote is  referring to something completely different than a modern day “minimum wage”.
  • As a propaganda message, this has  been widely shared, which makes for successful propaganda, even though the message is untrue.
  • Roosevelt did say this quote, but it was not about the minimum wage but about creating opportunities to become skilled, employable and have the ability to earn good wages. The speech was about the need to balance the interests of labor and capital. The speech was not about a minimum wage, which was not enacted until 28 years later.
  • The basic methods used are Assertion (that this is about a minimum wage), “Appeal to Authority” by citing President Teddy Roosevelt and a Logical fallacy of linking his comments  to today’s minimum wage.
  • The poster originated from Occupy Democrats.

Below is the full paragraph from the 1910 speech so you can see the original context. The speech is available online at http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com/historicspeeches/roosevelt_theodore/newnationalism.html.  No where in the text is a minimum wage discussed. The context in which this was given was about creating opportunities and providing everyone with the education and skills to be able to earn a living. He proposes the need for regulations to ensure sanitary and safe working conditions. The reference to “workman’s compensation” refers to workers being compensated when injured on the job – not to normal wages or minimum wages. You can find discussion on the “workman’s compensation” issue and what Roosevelt meant at the Social Welfare History Project at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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20%-40% of partisan FB “fake news” posts are false

Our analysis of three hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages found that 38% of all posts were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false, compared to 19% of posts from three hyperpartisan left-wing pages that were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false. The right-wing pages are among the forces — perhaps as potent as the cable news shows that have gotten far more attention — that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump. These pages, with names such as Eagle Rising on the right and Occupy Democrats on the left, represent a new and powerful force in American politics and society. Many have quickly grown to be as large as — and often much larger than — mainstream political news pages.

Source: Hyperpartisan Facebook Pages Are Publishing False And Misleading Information At An Alarming Rate – BuzzFeed News

Occupy Democrats has nearly 4 1/2 million “subscribers” on Facebook alone. Eagle Rising has a mere 655,000 page likes.

Look at those numbers – literally millions of people voluntarily subscribe to fake propaganda messaging, and then voluntarily share those fake items on their own FB pages, such that individual posts are exposed to tens of millions of potential “targets”.

Breitbart, Occupy Democrats among list of alleged fake, news sites 

[Professor] Zimdars puts the news sites into four categories. Category one deals with sites that rely on “outrage culture”, using distorted headlines or misleading information. Category two are sites that “circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information.” Category three is for more click-bait type websites that still deliver questionable information. And category four deals with satires news site like The Onion. The satires sites are included into the list because Zimdars thinks they sometimes contribute to the cycle of misinformation. The list includes sites like Info Wars, Occupy Democrats, Project Veritas, and Breitbart News.

Source: Breitbart, Occupy Democrats among list of alleged fake, misleading news sites to avoid | WFMYNEWS2.com

Examples of fake news from the above sites are shown by CNN. Another, earlier list, identifies many left wing fake news web sites such as Occupy Democrats (click for more on that). Most are for profit, social-media-based, online publishers, who profit by selling eyeballs to advertisers. They market their web sites by creating finely targeted propaganda posters that target the emotions, encouraging widespread Likes and Shares on social media, to drive traffic to their web sites.

Update: One of the alleged fake news sites blasts back with a hit piece attacking the professor, rather than the issue of the content on these sites and why they might be considered “fake news”.

The “official” list uses a broad definition of “fake news” to include not only fictional and false stories created to appear like real news, but also includes satire web sites (such as The Onion) that produce humorous fictional news stories, as well as web sites that create original reporting but are partisan (such as Breitbart News). A problem in categorizing web sites is the lack of a uniform definition of “fake news” and “fake news web site”.

Strawman argument: False quote asserts candidate is an idiot

Goal: Dr. Ben Carson is an idiot
Method: Assertion, Strawman Argument: Fabricate a statement about your opponent and then use that fabrication to argue your opponent is an idiot.
Scorecard: Over 36,000 shares within a month of this propaganda item posted online.

Snopes.com notes the headline is fiction; Dr. Carson never said what is claimed.

Here is the original headline:

Voila_Capture 2015-11-01_04-42-13_PM

A political report claimed Dr. Ben Carson said he had no idea how gravity works but asserted climate change is a hoax. He said neither of those things.

Source: Gravity Well (Snopes.com)

The headline is a fabricated quote. By fabricating a quote, the propagandist creates a “strawman argument”, making the target’s position look unreasonable while making your own position and argument sound reasonable, by comparison.

Follow the link to see how Snopes found the headline to be false and that Carson never said any of the things attributed to him by Occupy Democrats.

This type of propaganda messaging works because it feeds into what the target (Occupy Democrats supporters) wants to believe (about Dr. Carson). It is a simple message that elicits a rapid emotional response (“Good grief! He is an idiot!”) which is quickly translated into clicking on the social media “Share!” button.

Strawman arguments, like this one, can backfire by showing that the propagandist is foolishly making things up and thereby, harming their own reputation. However, from the tone of the comments at the original post, the “targets” do not recognize the quote is false nor that they are being manipulated with a “strawman argument”. Because most people lack an understanding of these basic propaganda methods, they do not recognize when they are being manipulated.

Using social media to spread mass misinformation

Recent Wikileaks revelations have unleashed a torrent of absurdities on social media. A search of Twitter for #Wikileaks turns up numerous posts making claims that are not supported – yet are eagerly shared and “liked”.

The posts cover the full spectrum from both left and right, and are all absurd.

There are people asserting that a short quote from a Wikileaks document means “X” when the full context shows it does not.

There are quotes that are not in the Wikileaks database, but are falsely passed along as verified Wikileaks documents, when they are not. This could be a disinformation campaign to spread a false message that Wikileaks has fake documents (when it does not).

There are those asserting that all of the Wikileaks documents are fake and created by “Russians” (this uses the propaganda technique of creating a “bogeyman”) even though

  • (a) the Wikileaks documents were hashed and digitally signed using the DomainKey Identified Mail authentication system, used to verify authenticity and confirm no modifications, and
  • (b) no actual evidence has been provided to demonstrate the claims of Russian involvement. Due to the presence of a “phishing attack” email in the Wikileaks collection and email discussion about the content of that phishing email, it appears highly likely this phishing attack was successful. The phishing attack redirected to an IP address in Ukraine, not Russia (but which could have been a proxy server re-directing to elsewhere) where a fake login to GMail occurred, resulting in the capture of John Podesta’s password, which was allegedly “P@ssw0rd”.

DisInformation Social Media Posts

This one is self explanatory – falsely create fears that the Wikileaks documents are laced with viruses and malware. At the time this was posted, only 2,000 documents were posted in the Wikileaks database, making the claim of 33,000+ viruses laughable. The source of the claim is said to be the Twitter account of Dr. Bontchev, a real computer security expert; it would make no sense for Wikileaks to distribute malware because then the reputation of Wikileaks would be in tatters and no one would read their distributed documetns.

voila_capture-2016-10-21_07-28-22_pm

The November 5th Anonymous Million Man March resulted in widespread attempts at making the march into something larger than it was, through the distribution of photos of other events.

For example, this photo is said to be of an Anonymous protest taking part in South Africa. In fact, it is, as clearly labeled, it is a stock agency photo of a fracking protest in New York City USA:

capture

Another obviously fake one, using a photo of a different event. Many photos like this, all fake, appeared on Twitter:

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Related to Anonymous, leading up to November 5th, there were anonymously posted assertions that Anonymous would release damning videos, photos and documents about the Clintons, on November 5th. This did not happen. Were these claims for future video releases a disinformation campaign intended to make Anonymous look foolish? Possibly.

Authoritative Fake News

Just before the November election, a large collection of “fake news” web sites appeared using then popular #wikileaks and #anonymous Twitter hashtags. These “news” web sites feature “news stories” which mimic legitimate news sites but are typically poorly sourced and exaggerate and jump to unsupported conclusions. Their stories are often written in the form of genuine news reports – even stealing content from legitimate news reports before editing – but if you read carefully, they tend to eventually lead off into space.

This one, for example, links to a web site that runs ads. The “story” that confirms this claims that Wikileaks issued a threatening Tweet, however, their Twitter feed shows no such Tweet. This is a classic example of “click bait” spam that is now filling Twitter, in an attempt to get targets emotionally charged up enough to share this item, thereby generating more eyeballs to advertisers:

fake

The following comes from News Rescue. There is an Alice Crites (a researcher) whose name appears, but there is no reference to an Austyn Crites. I do not know if the Wikileaks search function also searches through email attachments; if it does not, then it is possible the name Austyn Crites shows up in attachments.

capture

Most of these “news” sites have names that sound like real news web sites, but are most likely for profit social media publishing businesses that craft fictional news reports to appeal to conspiracy theorists and left or right wing extremists, who accept these reports without question and quickly like and share on social media.

A partial list of questionable “news” sources widely distributed on Twitter:

eyenewsentertainment.com
therealstrategy.com
denverguardian.com
ufpnews.com
activistpost.com
newsprepper.com
yournewswire.com
newsrescue.com
thelastlineofdefense.org
healthreportz.com

As noted on this blog in the past, some of the publishers of “right wing” news describe themselves as left wing Democrats – they have an eye for what gets right wing emotions up, and once inflamed, their target will like and share online. Most contain links back to the publisher’s web site where they sell advertising. Occupy Democrats is a similar model that targets the left with inflammatory posts intended for widespread sharing – and click bait back to their ad-driven web site.

If these posts are successful – and when their claims are frequently false – they educate their targets into stupidity. As many such posts are shared tens of thousands of times, it appears they are successful propaganda efforts.

This is not the way we thought the Internet was going to develop. We thought the Internet would enable people to have access to information and become smarter – however, the Internet is not turning out the way we expected.