Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Real or Fake?

“Smearing people just because you don’t like what they’re saying often works to shut them up,” Ms. Binkowski [Snopes' managing editor], 39, said. “But at Snopes you learn to grow a thick skin. I will always push back. At least until someone shows up at my workplace and kills me.”
Urban legends were the subject of most Snopes investigations in its first 20 years or so, but now the leaders of the investigative website -- David Mikkelson, Snopes' founder, and Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor -- are busy with the new trend: intentional political lies.  An article in the New York Times titled: "For Fact-Checking Website Snopes, a Bigger Role Brings More Attacks" documents the new work that Snopes is doing -- checking and reporting on the deluge of misleading and false stories designed to sway the masses in ugly ways. Anyone who remembers the fate of the staff of the French satiric journal "Charlie Hebdo" can see that a bit of heroism is involved in keeping Snopes going! (If you don't know about Charlie Hebdo, link here.)

From the article:
"One way to chart Snopes’s increasing prominence is by measuring the rise in fake news about the site itself. If you believe the internet, the founder of Snopes, David Mikkelson, has a longer rap sheet than Al Capone. He was supposedly arrested for committing fraud and corruption and running a pit bull ring. In the wake of a deal that Snopes and others made this month to start fact-checking for Facebook, new slurs and allegations poured forth.

"The underlying message of these spurious attacks is that the movement to fact-check the internet is a left-wing conspiracy whose real goal is to censor the right, and therefore must be resisted at all costs."
I've been counting on Snopes to help me out when I see obviously fake stories repeated on the Facebook pages of my friends, though these are usually the old-style stories that are eye-popping but not intended for actual harm. Now it's more important than ever to be watchful and skeptical. For a summary of how bad things are in this respect see: "Wielding Claims of ‘Fake News,’ Conservatives Take Aim at Mainstream Media."

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