Fake News: It Has Real Consequences

Last month we learned about “Pizzagate.” Social media took off with the false account that the restaurant Comet Ping Pong, in Washington D.C., was a front for Hillary Clinton and others to molest and traffic children.

I have a hard time imagining anyone would believe something so preposterous, but on November 27th, Edgar Welch drove from Salisbury, North Carolina with an AR-15 assault rifle to “investigate.” He entered the restaurant and pointed the rifle at an employee who was able to escape. He fired it a few times before surrendering to the police. Mercifully no one was injured.

But it could have gone differently. Posting (and profiting from) fake news is getting out of control. One of my favorite podcasts, Planet Money recently tracked down the author of a fake news outlet, the Denver Guardian. He wants it to appear to be a newspaper and it’s not. But enough people go to this website that he’s able to sell advertising and he’s making a good living. You can read about it here: here.

Many of us grew up seeing the National Enquirer at the grocery store and I think most of us recognized their stories are false. But it now appears that the crazier the story, the more believable it is. The conspiracy theorists still hang on to false stories even when proven false.

America, do yourself a favor: next time you see a suspicious story, check it out on Snopes. They do good work.

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