Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Don't block #fakenews. Fight it with facts

It is a promise I make - and then break - all the time: I pledge to avoid fights on Facebook with people propagating obviously false information.

It is a promise I make - and then break - all the time: I pledge to avoid fights on Facebook with people propagating obviously false information.

I know, I know. It seems pointless. And people who embrace fake news clearly enjoy fighting about it as much as spreading it.

So who really loses?

But today I'm heading in a different direction. I'm done trying to avoid the fight. I'm asking you to get in the rumble with me.

Here is why: We, the loyal and patriotic citizens of the fact-based United States of America, are the only group that can win a fight against what we now know as #fakenews.

The government has no role in moderating or regulating constitutionally protected free speech.

At the mucky bottom of that slippery slope is a state-run media deciding who can be a journalist and what they can say.

Let's not go there.

Social media sites are slow to recognize and slower still to act on all this.

Consider the public opinion weathervane, Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, who swiveled from claiming fake news made up less than 1 percent of his site's content to rejecting the notion that it impacted the presidential campaign to banning some fake news sites from profiting from his company's advertising network.

So it's not a problem. But he'll put a stop to it?

Fake news sites, which profit from duping readers on social media, have no motive to change.

Consider this example:

A homeless man was brutally beaten by a group of people at a Philadelphia gas station in 2015 and later died. The crime was caught on video, relayed by local media.

A fake news site,, changed the name of the victim, who died from his injuries, and posted a bogus story, along with the video, claiming he was a veteran attacked for telling protestors upset by Donald Trump's presidential victory to stop burning a flag.

That website, which later pulled down the fake story, lists one apparently fake name as an operator and is registered privately, making it difficult to track.

The only advertiser on that site is another website,, which pops up with each click, offering a Trump T-shirt for $6.95, if readers provide email and home addresses - the type of information coveted by internet marketers.

AbsoluteRights is one of many ventures run by a marketing firm in Austin, Texas. That firm's CEO did not respond to my requests for comment.

This all makes "confirmation bias" - people seeking information from sources that told them only what they wanted to hear - seem so quaint.

Now many of those people lash out online at fact-based reporting that challenges their world view while pushing fake news.

Case in point: One of Trump's top campaign surrogates, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, went on Fox News and urged Fox News viewers in August to search the internet for 'Hillary Clinton illness.' " That search brings up thousands of fake news conspiracy theories about the health of the former Democratic nominee.

That mess turned up in my Facebook feed before the election, posted by people who flatly insisted it was true while shrugging off any responsibility for verifying their claims.

That is why the social media donnybrook must go on. I know it is pain. I know the trolls enjoy it.

Forget them. Focus on what you can fix.

These sites are communities. Posts gain an audience. That is your audience, too. Look past the fake news posters to the people who see it with you. Call out the nonsense.

Facts are the only cure for false news. Not for trolls. For the rest of us.