Fake president doesn’t think he’s lying

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, has said that Trump doesn’t think he’s lying. This may well be correct, Trump may believe everything he says – but it doesn’t make his  repeated claims true.

ConwayStelton.jpg

CNN: Kellyanne Conway offers alternative fact to explain why Trump isn’t lying

Here’s an exchange on Sunday between CNN “Reliable Sources” anchor Brian Stelterand counselor to President Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway:

STELTER: “The scandals are about the President’s lies. About voter fraud, about wiretapping, his repeated lies about those issues. That’s the scandal.”

CONWAY: “[Donald Trump] doesn’t think he’s lying about those issues, and you know it.”

On voter fraud…

… Trump has repeatedly insisted that widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election led to 3 to 5 million illegal votes being cast. Those votes for Hillary Clinton are the sole reason she won the popular vote, he argues.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted on November 27, 2016 — 19 days after he won the presidency.

 

According to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, there were only four verified incidents of voter fraud in the 2016 election as of December. That accounts for 0.000002% of all ballots cast in the race.

Beyond just the 2016 election, there has never been a serious study of elections that suggests any widespread voter fraud. Not one. Let’s repeat that: There has never been a serious study of elections that suggests any widespread voter fraud.

Trump’s allegation that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower during the presidential campaign:

That comes from this tweet sent at 6:35 a.m. ET on March 4: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

Trump — and his administration — offered zero proof for this claim. James Clapper, who was Director of National Intelligence during the 2016 election, said, unequivocally, that it did not happen. “I have no information that supports those tweets,” former FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee under oath in May.

Trump has no revised or reversed claims when it has been shown that they are untrue.

What Trump is doing is lying. He may believe it. But that doesn’t matter at all.

Kellyanne Conway knows that. Which makes her attempt to explain away lies the President keeps repeating all the more ridiculous.

It is ridiculous, but this sort of thing from Trump and is acolytes has seriously impact on Trump and White House credibility.

And that is contributing to a lack of progress.

Politico:  GOP despairs at inability to deliver

The Republican Party is more powerful than it’s been in more than a decade — and yet it has never seemed so weak.

Continuing chaos in the White House has been punctuated by the failure to deliver on the GOP’s seven-year pledge to overhaul Obamacare, and has many asking whether the party can capitalize on the sweeping victories it has achieved at the federal, state, and local levels.

Ahead of this week’s crucial Senate vote on health care, White House aides are already considering how to distance President Donald Trump from Congress and how to go after the Republicans who vote no — an idea the president seems fond of, according to people who have spoken to him. Several people said he plans to keep up the fight, no matter how this week’s vote goes.

He threatened Republicans on Twitter Sunday, saying they would face electoral consequences, and complained about his party not defending him — even though congressional Republicans are tired of defending him all the time.

“It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, those close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say they are frustrated that the president has shown little focus on his political agenda, particularly health care. Trump’s interview with the New York Times this week, for example, where he raged about Attorney General Jeff Sessions instead of promoting health care, was “political malpractice,” one senior GOP aide said.

With control of both Congress and the White House — and yet no major legislative successes to point to — the Republican Party is finding itself stuck. A GOP Congress is frustrated with the president, and is unsure what will happen next in his daily West Wing drama.

The president expanded the power of the political neophytes in his administration, elevating the Manhattan hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci to White House communications director, at the cost of an operative – press secretary Sean Spicer, who announced his resignation on Friday — with years of Washington experience.

Spicer was not the only establishment casualty. Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff who, at least in title holds one of the most powerful jobs in Washington, has been largely sidelined.

The hire of Scaramucci as communications director was the biggest shot yet at Priebus, White House officials say, because he was opposed by Priebus, will report directly to Trump, and will be far more powerful than a normal communications director.

Let “the president be the president” is how Scaramucci described his new job in a Fox News interview on Sunday.

Even Trump supporters are beginning to express frustration with the constant chaos in the West Wing. “There are a lot of missed opportunities,” said Julius Krein, who founded the pro-Trump journal American Affairs in February in an effort to give the Trump movement some intellectual heft. “It has all degenerated into D.C. tempests and teapots,” Krein said, characterizing policies championed by the administration in the first six months as “mediocre conventional Republicanism with a lot more noise.”

While Trump has specialized in delivering self-inflicted blows, the Senate Republican conference is demonstrating that it, too, is capable of administering them.

With the Republicans in the strongest political position they have been in for some time, and the Democrats in disarray,  the opportunity was there for the incoming president to make bold changes.

But Trump won and took over with a lot of Republican politicians less than enthralled. He seems to have failed to get them on his side.

Trump seems to be continually distracted with petty point scoring and fighting personal grudges and battling the ‘fake news’ with a fair amount of fakery of his own.

Believing his own bullshit doesn’t make him credible, nor powerful.

If this continues ‘fake president’ may stick.

 

Trump depicts violence against CNN

Donald Trump’s feud against media has raised to a bizarre level with yet another tweet:

That’s appalling.

There’s certainly plenty to find fault in the media – the media that played a large part in enabling Trump’s election victory, initially by giving him an extraordinary amount of free publicity, and then when they woke up to the possibility of a Trump success by effectively campaigning against him, which helped his campaign.

But should be growing concerns over Trump’s attacks on the media – especially when they depict violence like this.

He isn’t attacking all media – Fox News seems to still be on his side in his battle. Like this:

CNN have responded to Trump’s tweet:

 

Fake president blames leaks on ‘fake news’

Ok, Donald Trump is the real president of the United States, but he is faking the problems he has with leaks from within the White House, the FBI and wherever else they are coming from by blaming it all on alleged ‘fake news’.

He’s making more excuses than Hillary Clinton made about losing the election to him.

That’s pathetic, and it’s alarming when coming from the president. Going on about conspiracies like fake birth certificates was bad enough, before he was a real candidate, but now he’s President he needs to get real about the problems he faces or he will become known as the president who faked it.

It’s fair to question media accuracy, but trying to dismiss all news he doesn’t like as deliberately concocted fake news is unbecoming of someone in his position.

There will no doubt be inaccuracies and mistakes in news, there always has been and always will be, but it is alarmingly childish of Trump to blame all his problems on something he himself is making up, his claims are based on “my opinion” with no evidence and not any sources.

He is at least as bad as those he accuses, and I think he’s worse for a person in his position.

Every politician ever has probably claimed about media coverage. I’ve never seen any go as far, promoting conspiracy theories as an excuse for every unfavourable story.

News (from ‘sources’) seems to be getting a bit too close to home for Trump – with reports about investigations into Russian collusion possibly involving his son-in-law Jared Kushner – “is part of the federal investigation into the alleged Russia collusion, though not a target of the probe”.

News reports last week said Kushner, married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is part of the federal investigation into the alleged Russia collusion, though not a target of the probe.

They were followed by stories, also based on sources, that Kushner during the presidential campaign was trying to set up a back-channel communications network with the Kremlin and that he had two previously undisclosed conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Kushner’s lawyer has said his client is willing to talk to federal and congressional investigators about the matter.

The US Homeland Security Secretary actually sees contact with Russia “is a good thing”. It depends on what sort of contact, and whether proper disclosures have been made.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told “Fox News Sunday” that any channel of communication between the United States and another country, including Russia, “is a good thing.”

“It doesn’t bother me,” Kelly also said about the reports about efforts to create the back channel. “I don’t see it as a big deal.”

Some of the US authorities, including oversight committees of elected representatives,  obviously see it as potentially a big deal, hence the ongoing investigations.

A number of leaks have been real:

British intelligence on their Manchester bombing investigations was also leaked from the US.

Trump seems to have a habit of attacking when attacked, so the more ridiculous claims he makes the bigger the concern there should be over his conspiracy rants.

A real president wouldn’t just blame all bad news on conspiracies he has no evidence of. He should be bigger than that.

If he makes too many fake claims his protestations may back fire, and he may become known as the Fake President.

Trump concedes miscues and complexities

Reality may be starting to make an impression on Donald Trump. He admits “communications miscues” and admits he had not been aware of the complexities of health care policy-making – but miscues on that.

Fox News: Trump previews joint address to Congress, takes blame for communication issues

Trump, in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” specifically cited his immigration policy, and said that perhaps the rollout of his plan to keep out and remove criminal illegals hadn’t been communicated effectively.

“And maybe that’s my fault,” Trump said.

He later awarded himself a grade of a “C” or “C-plus” on communicating, straightforwardly saying, “My messaging isn’t good.” He clarified that he would give himself an “A” for achievement and “A-plus” for effort.

Admitting  faults is something Trump has tended not to do before.

Trump also ramped up his war with the press, questioning whether many journalists are simply making up the stories he’s infamously derided as “fake news.”

“I believe that sometimes they don’t have sources,” Trump said. “I believe that a lot of the sources are made up. I believe a lot of the sources are pure fiction. They just pull it out of thin air.”

But then he blames the media again. They are far from perfect but I call bullshit on his claims here – he is pulling this fiction out of thin air. A common ‘Breitbart’ tactic is to transference of blame to others for one’s own actions.

Though he pledged to give the U.S. “the greatest military we’ve ever had by the time I finish,” Trump spoke somberly about the Jan. 29 special operations mission in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL. Sen. John McCain – a frequent Trump foil – had criticized the daring raid, saying he would “not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success.” Trump said McCain’s remarks were “inappropriate.”

“I feel badly when a young man dies and John McCain says, ‘That was a failed mission,’” he said.

It’s good to see that he recognises consequences of making military decisions.

As the president plans to boost the military, Trump’s proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending is coming largely from cuts to the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency. He suggested Tuesday that foreign aid would be a target of the cuts.

“We’re going to do things having to do with other countries because we’re treated very, very unfairly,” Trump said. “…We’re taking care of their military and we’re not being reimbursed. They’re wealthy countries.”

Trump pledged to use his “Art of the Deal” expertise to drive down costs, as well.

“I am going to get involved in negotiating,” Trump said. “We have many planes and boats and ships … we’re spending too much money individually on.” He said the U.S. would “get a lot more product for our buck.”

Having the president getting involved in contract negotiations will raise a few eyebrows for various reasons. As does his escalation of military spending at the expense of overseas aid and diplomacy, things that experts have warned are at least as important as military might.

NY Times: Trump Concedes Health Law Overhaul Is ‘Unbelievably Complex’

President Trump, meeting with the nation’s governors, conceded Monday that he had not been aware of the complexities of health care policy-making: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

I’m sure many people knew how complex it was.

The president also suggested that the struggle to replace the Affordable Care Act was creating a legislative logjam that could delay other parts of his political agenda.

Many policy makers had anticipated the intricacies of changing the health care law, and Mr. Trump’s demands in the opening days of his administration to simultaneously repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement made the political calculations far more complicated.

Running a government and a country the size of the US is very complex. Simple healthcare decisions can affect the lives of many people.

Perhaps Trump is starting to realise that being President involves more than waving a rhetorical wand.

And Trump’s first budget is a major test for him and the White House.

Fox News: Not fake news: Trump’s budget cuts are first big test of his presidency

In the last few days, President Trump has made news by excoriating the “fake news” media as the “enemy of the people,” attacking the use of anonymous sources, and blowing off the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Trump also declared the election of Tom Perez as DNC chair to be “rigged” and tweeted this: “Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to make the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!”

These are all ways of stirring the pot, and the self-absorbed media relish reporting on the president attacking them and then firing back, creating a seemingly endless loop.

But with the president delivering his first speech to Congress tonight, he faces a very different challenge—shaping a budget and pushing through his priorities—that will do more to determine his success than all the skirmishing with the press.

I was on a press call with a senior OMB official—a couple of reporters complained that the White House was putting out an “anonymous source”—who described the magnitude of what he dubbed a “security budget.”

The sort of anonymous sources he has criticised media for useing.

In pushing for a $54-billion boost in defense spending, Trump will demand offsetting cuts in the rest of the budget. That is huge, and reminiscent of what Ronald Reagan did in 1981.

And like Reagan, Trump also plans to push through a major tax cut that would undoubtedly drain revenue from the Treasury.

Plus, as he told me during the campaign and recently reemphasized, the president doesn’t plan to touch the big-ticket entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security—despite the adamant stance of House conservatives that without reform they are headed toward bankruptcy.

So that raises real questions about whether the Trumpian budget will blow a big hole in the deficit. Trump’s never been a major balanced-budget guy, and the issue hasn’t resonated in American politics since Ross Perot, but it does add to borrowing costs and impact the economy.

But what will become a massive story in media and politics is the attempt to slice more than $50 billion from what budget wonks call non-defense discretionary spending. That means the money will come from schools, housing, health, agriculture, environment—just about everything else the government does. And also foreign aid, according to the OMB official.

Every program is in that budget because it has a constituency, creates jobs in certain communities, and lobbyists who are prepared to defend it.

There will be a flood of stories about people who would lose their benefits, about the impact on food stamp recipients and farmers, clean air or clean water.

Some of the people affected by budget cuts will be people who voted for Trump, hoping for something better.

These are the realities of governing – it’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time. It’s hard enough pleasing half of the people half of the time.

It will take much more than eliminating communications miscues (that he is still making) to reform Washington and fix the country and the world.

One of the first things he could do to improve communications is to cut his contradictions on ‘fake news’, or gradually more and more people will wake up and become disillusioned, especially if he cuts their jobs.

Even Rasmussen doesn’t have him ahead on job approval now:

presidentapproval20170301

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html

President Trump will address a joint session of Congress Tuesday 9:10 pm Eastern Time – that should be 3:10 PM Wednesday New Zealand time and will be on all the major US networks.

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.