King bust, honesty bust

A lot has been made of a non story about the removal of a bust of Martin Luther King from the White House oval office after Donald Trump moved in.

It has been cited as an example of dishonest reporting and fake news, with some going as far as blaming ‘the media’, but it was far less than that.

It was one Time journalist (Zeke Miller) with one tweet (which he has deleted), and when his error was pointed out to him he corrected himself:

Trump’s press secretary:

That is an ongoing problem with instant reporting via social media.

Snopes reports:

For the record, the MLK bust dust-up never attained the status of a “big story” in the media. Zeke Miller corrected his error — via Twitter — within an hour of making it — via Twitter. There was never any published story to retract.

This didn’t stop Trump elevating it as a story in his CIA speech. Slate reports:

Trump then got specific and berated a Time magazine journalist by name for writing an inaccurate eport claiming Trump had removed the Martin Luther King Jr. bust from the Oval Office. “So Zeke from Time magazine writes the story,” Trump said. “But this is how dishonest the media is.” (The reporter has already publicly apologized.)

And then the president went on to brag about the number of times he has been on the cover of Time.

As far as I’m aware there was no story written by the Time reporter. It seems to have been Trump making up that story.

And this probably suits Trump. Hasn’t he just signed away Obamacare or something?  And didn’t he mention something about maybe going back to Iraq and taking their oil?:

From Foreign Policy:

At one point, Trump regurgitated parts of his stump speech about how the United States “should have kept the oil” after invading Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he added. Aside from being physically impossible to sequester billions of barrels of underground oil, that would constitute a breach of international law. U.S. troops are currently embedded with forces of the country that Trump suggested again invading.

Reaction on Fox News:

Krauthammer: “The point is that when you become the president of the United States, your words…they are incredibly important, you can say one sentence and the dollar will lose its value…”

Baier: “Well for example, when he said that [we] should have taken the oil from Iraq and maybe we’ll have another shot at it…I mean, if you’re Iraq, you’d raise your eyebrows.”

Hemingway: “Again though…people in America are wanting us to not just be careful about which wars we fight, but when we fight them, win them…That’s a message that goes over extremely well with people.”

Baier: “I get that, Mollie. But words matter. They do matter.”

Krauthammer: “Pondering the oil is a war crime.”

Video clip here.

Clapper versus Trump on dossier leak

After previously implicating US intelligence in the leaking of a dossier Donald Trump has now claimed that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denounced “the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated”.

However in ‘a rare statement’ Clapper said that “the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable”.

The dossier alleges Russia has compromising information of a sexual and financial nature, that could be used to blackmail Donald Trump has been in circulation for several months. Senator Harry Reid alluded to it before the election.

The reports in the dossier are dated from 20 June to 20 October last year.

Senator John McCain has admitted he passed the dossier to the FBI last month.

A lot of media in the US and in the UK say they have seen the dossier.

On Tuesday BuzzFeed published the documents, which it said were “unverified and potentially unverifiable”

CNN also reported on Tuesday that the FBI was investigating the credibility of the documents but also said that the intelligence chiefs had included a summary of the material in a secret briefing on Russian interference in the election given last week to Obama and  Trump.

Trump has accused CNN of publishing ‘fake news’, but they reported on the existence of the document and that intelligence agencies had it, not the contents, so what the reported was factual.

In yesterday’s media conference Trump also speculated that the dossier had been leaked by intelligence officials. Following this Clapper  contacted Trump.

Fox News: Intel chief calls Trump to disavow leaks

The nation’s top intel chief called President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday to personally deny leaking to the media a dubious dossier of allegations about sensitive information the Russians supposedly had about him.

Trump confirmed Thursday that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spoke to him by phone, apparently sometime after a press conference in which Trump lashed out at media outlets, including Buzzfeed and CNN, that ran with the story and speculated it was leaked by federal officials.

On Wednesday, Clapper released a rare statement addressing rising tensions between spy agency chiefs and Trump, who believes the intel community has become politicized and is working to undermine him. He also acknowledged contacting Trump directly to express “profound dismay” about the leaks to CNN and Buzzfeed — the latter of which published the unverified allegations in full.

“I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC,” Clapper said. “The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”

Clapper makes it clear in his statement the Intelligence Community has made no judgement on the veracity of the allegations.

But Trump tweeted:

That is contrary to what Clapper said in his statement. There was no denouncement of the report, and not even an implication by Clapper that it was false or fictitious.

It is ironic that Trump accuses others of publishing false or fake news when he continues to be loose with the truth himself.

CNN response to Trump ‘fake news’ accusations

In his first media conference as president-elect Donald Trump slammed CNN for publishing ‘fake news’ and refused to answer questions from a CNN reporter.

Trump had earlier tweeted:

CNN have responded:

Also at CNN’s response to Trump’s accusations of false reporting

Meanwhile from the BBC:

 

More Breitbart ‘fake news’

The Breitbart news site has been accused of spreading ‘fake news’ about an alleged Muslim attack on a church in Germany. This has been debunked by multiple sources.

This raises concerns for a number of reasons:

  • The ex CEO of Bretibart, Steve Barron, will soon become Trump’s chief strategist in the White House.
  • Breitbart plans to set up a German language site (and also a French site).
  • Germany is having elections this year.
  • Whale Oil wants to imitate Breitbart  in New Zealand.

Guardian: German police quash Breitbart story of mob setting fire to Dortmund church

German media and politicians have warned against an election-year spike in fake news after the rightwing website Breitbart claimed a mob chanting “Allahu Akbar” had set fire to a church in the city of Dortmund on New Year’s Eve.

After the report by the US site was widely shared on social media, the city’s police clarified that no “extraordinary or spectacular” incidents had marred the festivities.

The local newspaper, Ruhr Nachrichten, said elements of its online reporting on New Year’s Eve had been distorted by Breitbart to produce “fake news, hate and propaganda”.

The justice minister of Hesse state, Eva Kühne-Hörmann, said that “the danger is that these stories spread with incredible speed and take on lives of their own”.

Tens of thousands clicked and shared the Breitbart.com story with the headline “Revealed: 1,000-man mob attack police, set Germany’s oldest church alight on New Year’s Eve”.

It said the men had “chanted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), launched fireworks at police and set fire to a historic church”, while also massing “around the flag of al-Qaida and Islamic State collaborators the Free Syrian Army.”

The local newspaper said Breitbart had combined and exaggerated unconnected incidents to create a picture of chaos and of foreigners promoting terrorism.

Dortmund police on Thursday said its officers had handled 185 missions that night, sharply down from 421 the previous year. The force’s leader judged the night as “rather average to quiet”, in part thanks to a large police presence.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily said Breitbart had used exaggerations and factual errors to create “an image of chaotic civil war-like conditions in Germany, caused by Islamist aggressors”.

Breitbart is unlikely to be deterred by belated debunking of their slanted and misleading campaigns.

Bild, Germany’s top-selling daily, also predicted trouble ahead – pointing to the fact that Breitbart’s former editor Steve Bannon had been appointed as US president-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist.

It warned that Breitbart – which plans to launch German and French language sites – could seek to “aggravate the tense political climate in Germany”.

Meanwhile in New Zealand Whale Oil is trying to revive it’s imitation of Breitbart – and already has a history of anti-Muslim posts.

How Whaleoil can become New Zealand’s Breitbart

Whaleoil can become New Zealand’s Breitbart if the subscription numbers continue to grow. We will use the extra income to hire more staff and we will train interns. Given the appropriate resources, we will expand services which may possibly include news aggregation from sources you can trust.

When you subscribe to Whaleoil you become part of our plan to once again imitate what works overseas and to replicate its success here in New Zealand.

Sources you can trust? Breitbartising Whale Oil might appeal to those who want to be told what they believe, but the trust levels here are already very low.

Because of this Whale Oil rarely gets traction in social and mainstream media for any of the campaigns they try to run – they have been complaining about the lack of media interest in their daily barrage of pro-Israel anti-NZ Government posts.

Any ‘news’ posted by Whale Oil should be viewed with a healthy degree of skepticism, whether it is from their own ‘tip line’ or unnamed sources, or from ‘trusted sources’ like Breitbart. Both have records of political skulduggery and dirt – and Whale Oil has been promising to get dirtier this year.

More on false news

Coincidentally after posting Fake news, elections, Facebook I see an example of more false election news in the US – bogus sites promoting false claims that Donald Trump won the popular vote in the presidential election.

Washington Post: Google’s top news link for ‘final election results’ goes to a fake news site with false numbers

If you head to Google to learn the final results of the presidential election, the search engine helpfully walks through the final electoral vote tallies and number of seats won by each party in the House and Senate. Under that, Google lists some related news articles. At the top this morning, with an accompanying photo: a story arguing that Donald Trump won both the popular and electoral votes.

That’s not true.

The Daily Show’s Dan Amira noticed that numbers were being spread on social media that linked back to the “70 News” site. The 70 News article cites its source as this tweet.

 That tweet cites as its source USASupreme.com, another random website which doesn’t actually include the numbers themselves. It does, however, argue that Hillary Clinton is “probably not going to win the actual number of votes cast. She may win the number of votes counted, but not the votes cast.” That distinction is … not really clear, except that the author, “Alex,” seems to believe that absentee ballots are only counted if the tally could make the difference in the election.

That’s not true, either.

So it pays to be wary of claims made, especially when they link to unknown sources, no matter how authentic those sources might sound.

Current ‘popular vote’ results from Fox News:

  • Hillary Clinton 61,035,460
  • Donald Trump 60,367,401

But the most important numbers are electoral college votes – Trump 290, Clinton 228.

 

Fake news, elections, Facebook

Attention continues on how fake news is being used in political campaigns, how fake news helped win the US presidential election for Donald Trump, and how Facebook is a significant  part of spreading false news.

Gizmodo: Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash

It’s no secret that Facebook has a fake news problem. Critics have accused the social network of allowing false and hoax news stories to run rampant, with some suggesting that Facebook contributed to Donald Trump’s election by letting hyper-partisan websites spread false and misleading information.

Mark Zuckerberg has addressed the issue twice since Election Day, most notably in a carefully worded statement that reads: “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics.”

Still, it’s hard to visit Facebook without seeing phony headlines like “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide” or “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement” promoted by no-name news sites like the Denver Guardian and Ending The Fed.

Gizmodo has learned that the company is, in fact, concerned about the issue, and has been having a high-level internal debate since May about how the network approaches its role as the largest news distributor in the US.

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias.

One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

on Facebook:

1. Facebook is a perfect example for why government regulation is important.

2. The incentives are all wrong here:
  a) Users are happy with fake news
  b) FB is happy making billions
  c) Advertisers are happy with clicks

3. The fake news literally makes everyone involved happy–from producers and distributors to advertisers and users.

4. In this way, it’s not unlike, say, heroin, which also makes everyone in the chain happy–until someone dies. And that’s why it’s illegal.

I don’t know how government regulation will help prevent fake news being fed via other countries.

Guardian: Click and elect: how fake news helped Donald Trump win a real election

We are fully ensconced in the post-truth world. The greatest editor this paper ever had, CP Scott, had it that “facts are sacred”. CP Scott, by the way, apparently used to have this thing where he brushed his teeth a certain way so the flecks of toothpaste would make a rude shape as they hit the bathroom mirror.

Zuckerberg has said: “Personally, I think the idea that fake news – of which it’s a small amount of content – influenced the election is a pretty crazy idea.”

The influence of verifiably false content on Facebook cannot be regarded as “small” when it garners millions of shares. And yes, it runs deep. The less truthful a piece is, the more it is shared.

In Zuckerberg’s follow-up statement, he seems to have shot himself in the foot, by saying it was “extremely unlikely” fake news on Facebook had an impact on the election, but also boasting that Facebook was responsible for 2 million people registering to vote. So which is it, Zuck? Does Facebook have influence or not?

Where do these stories originate? Well, some are created by teenagers in Macedonia. Wait, that one isn’t a joke – non-partisan kids looking for cash just catering to demand. Many more come from people we now term the “alt-right”, who cook up stories on boards such as 8chan, 4chan and social media, and are then co-opted either by genuine right-leaning sites or shill sites, and are then shared again on social media by accounts with Pepe the Frog or eggs as their avatars. It’s a bit like the water cycle, but if the water cycle were diarrhoea.

‘Alt-right’ is a sanitising term. Perhaps Alt[-wrong or Alt-deliberately-wrong would be more appropriate.

Some of these stories are frankly ridiculous (myth busted: Hillary Clinton is not the leader of an underground paedophile ring), and cater to an increasing number of conspiracy theorists. But others are relatively benign if wildly inaccurate. They have still begun on message boards created by the same people who – and I will not sugarcoat this – refer to people who are not white as “shit-skins”.

A better term for many of the alt-right, therefore, might be “far-right”. For “alt-right” is an ambiguous term and encompasses many forms. Sure, they are internet-savvy millennials who reject mainstream conservatives and despise Paul Ryan. But they’re also far-right lurkers who probably bid on Nazi memorabilia and have moved from white supremacist sites such as Stormfront. Then there’s the Russian faction; online commenters bought in bulk. And on social media, there are the bots and sockpuppet accounts to inflict automated insult to injury.

But let’s be clear: the internet alt-right is more successful as an In Real Life political force than the online left.

And that success is why it will be hard to combat.

Just like old media seem to put clickbait ahead of accuracy, and Facebook is driven by revenue, political activists are driven by a desire to win, and if they win with fake news they will keep peddling fake news.

And they will get better at disguising it as legitimate news, and they will get better at spreading it before it can get busted as fake.

The Internet was a great new hope for spreading information and communication to the masses, but it is becoming a means of duping the masses on an unprecedented scale.

This will evolve and change – for better and for worse.

Facebook and fake news

Fake news on the Internet is a growing problem, and Facebook has been under fire for it and how it may have affected the US election.

In response to the Mark Zuckerberg has posted:


I want to share some thoughts on Facebook and the election.

Our goal is to give every person a voice. We believe deeply in people. Assuming that people understand what is important in their lives and that they can express those views has driven not only our community, but democracy overall. Sometimes when people use their voice though, they say things that seem wrong and they support people you disagree with.

After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading. These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here.

Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.

That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.

This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. Identifying the “truth” is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.

As we continue our research, we are committed to always updating you on how News Feed evolves. We hope to have more to share soon, although this work often takes longer than we’d like in order to confirm changes we make won’t introduce unintended side effects or bias into the system. If you’re interested in following our updates, I encourage you to follow our News Feed FYI here: http://bit.ly/2frNWo2.

Overall, I am proud of our role giving people a voice in this election. We helped more than 2 million people register to vote, and based on our estimates we got a similar number of people to vote who might have stayed home otherwise. We helped millions of people connect with candidates so they could hear from them directly and be better informed. Most importantly, we gave tens of millions of people tools to share billions of posts and reactions about this election. A lot of that dialog may not have happened without Facebook.

This has been a historic election and it has been very painful for many people. Still, I think it’s important to try to understand the perspective of people on the other side. In my experience, people are good, and even if you may not feel that way today, believing in people leads to better results over the long term.


Another issue with Facebook is how it feeds you news that it thinks fits your interests, but this filters out different types of topics and different opinions (I don’t use Facebook for following news much but a lot of people do).

An interesting comment just after the US election:

facebookbubble

There’s a lot more news available now but if you want to get different views of news and issues you have to go looking.