Fake news stories have always been around, but the Age of the Internet has given rise to a whole new form of false information. People write fake stories with headlines like “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,” as clickbait. The headlines aren’t exposing true news, but rather drawing readers to fake news sites in order to make money through ads.
Somewhere along the way, however, the idea that fake news exists became the perfect tool for calling out competitors within the media. And not just competitors, but alternative sites without ulterior motives — except to present information in an unbiased way and force people to think outside the brainwashed boxes they’ve been carefully placed into by societies’ governments, elitists, and more.
As if the exhaustion over the fake news epidemic hasn’t been enough, it seems now the Russian government has launched its own “fake news” tracker.
Facebook, after spending much time ignoring the matter, ultimately caved and announced its plan to work toward an algorithm that ensures “fake news” doesn’t fill up people’s feeds and filters out as much of the assumed fake fluff as possible. There are also companies like Snopes and PolitiFact trying to combat the problem, though their real agenda is heavily debated, as is the fact checking on mainstream media sites such as ABC News.
Russia’s tracker is a bit different, however. The articles the Russian government pinpoints as false are shown on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, with a big red “FAKE” stamp over them, along with a disclaimer that says: “This material contains data, not corresponding to the truth.”
According to Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the ministry, the list will be “regularly updated” to “make an example of such propaganda dumped by various media outlets, providing links to their sources.”
Among the pages featured are reporting from The New York Times, Bloomberg, NBC, Britain’s Daily Telegraph, and the U.S. local Santa Monica Observer.
The Russian government has long been considered corrupt, and their new “fake news” tracker only strengthens that view, especially considering the ministry offers zero explanation for why the articles are thought of as fake, nor any criteria outlining what false reporting entails.
Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Times, points out the oddities of the service, saying, “It’s a dangerous and troubling situation for governments or individuals to simply assign the label of fake news to a story they don’t like, instead of challenging specific facts or offering counter evidence.” And urges, “We stand by our reporting.”
It seems many people are confused by the tracker of a country that has been widely accused of spreading fake news. In fact, French intelligence personnel, politicians, and political experts note that a Kremlin-supported disinformation campaign is currently working to alter the results of the ongoing French election, much like it is thought they did with the U.S. election campaign.
But Zakharova says such accusations are baffling: “Russia is being accused of doing this, but how can you accuse us of disseminating untrue information by government agencies and the media while you are doing the same against Russia? . . . While publishing information about Russia, the world media is doing the same thing — they never cite concrete facts — this is a sad paradox.”
However, there is a big difference between empty accusations of “fake news” like what Russia is doing, and the Kremlin being accused of spreading that news.
Fake news happens, there’s no denying that, but if we are going to call out stories for being untrue, we need to have the facts to back up those accusations — otherwise, they become just as fake as the news they are trying to debunk.
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