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How to identify and combat Fake News

by May 6, 2018 0


Fact Checking

A true Democracy relies on an informed population; however, meaningful discussion between opposing views is often rendered futile because opinions are based on belief vs. disbelief of information posted by media sites. Here are links to fact-check sites that examine the facts behind claims made by politicians, organizations, websites and media pundits.

Click on these sites and check your facts!








The SMELL Test

John C. McManus, author of the book, “Detecting Bull” says the formula for “identifying bias and junk in print, broadcast and on the wild Web” is known as the “Smell Test”:

S stands for Source.  Find out who is providing the information.

M is for Motivation.  Why are they telling me this stuff?

E is for Evidence.  Do they have real evidence for their assertions?

L is for Logic.  Do the facts offered logically compel the conclusions?

L is for Left out.  What’s missing in the information that might change the interpretation of subject matter?

How did we get here?

Click thumbnail below to view the timeline for big media changes:

The overall trend towards consolidation in national media makes for fewer voices by ever more powerful entities:

• Current media mergers are driven by panic of major media corporations in the face of streaming capability by the FANGS – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. The result will be fewer independent voices, news that is increasingly ratings-based and skews towards protecting corporate interests.

RULING BY THE FCC TO REPEAL NET NEUTRALITY WILL EXACERBATE THIS TRENDRuling took effect April 2018. Congressional vote to override is due to take place in May 2018.

For updates click here:

Effects of consolidation:

  1. Incentivizing traffic to go to certain programming based on cost and speed.
  2. Bundling of website access similar to Cable TV packages can remove access to websites. This could have a damaging effect on dissenting voices.
  3. Governments prefer fewer media outlets – easier to influence their message.


Sinclair is the nation’s largest owner of local television stations with an alt-right bent. Thanks to recently relaxed FCC regulations, Sinclair is also in the process of purchasing Tribune Media, owner of 39 television stations nationwide. If this consolidation goes through, Sinclair will be able to reach 72% of all households through local stations magnifying The Fox Effect geometrically.

Sinclair’s commentators, Mark Hyman and former Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn, produce content which all of its stations are obligated to run. This commentary includes fabrications about global warming, voter fraud and immigrants. Content also includes the conservative Allman Report which mimics the typical Fox News style debate-driven, guest-heavy format.

Sinclair also airs “must run” content where trusted local anchors are required to read scripts to introduce segments. Example of  a must run is “The Terrorism Alert Desk,” manufacturing dubiously sourced stories to engender fear while linking them to anything Muslim.  Sinclair is also negotiating with Steve Bannon, former alt-right Breitbart News founder and Trump Chief of Staff.

Click for an article from the Seattle Times on Sinclair acquisitions:

In April 2018 Sinclair came under intense scrutiny for their “must run” script read by trusted local anchors as shown in this video mashup from Deadspin:

What to do: Individual and group approaches:

1. The airwaves are for the people. The FCC is supposed to be open to hear our comments. The FCC has stated: “As public trustees, broadcasters may not intentionally distort the news” and “rigging or slanting the news is a most heinous act against the public interest.”

We can file a complaint online to the FCC here: or phone the FCC: 888-CALL-FCC (888-225-5322)

2. To learn how to better talk to your loved ones so that they don’t turn you off, become defensive, and retreat into their beliefs, click to consult with:

3. Two potential solutions (to the fake news phenomenon) are being proposed by Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich Ecker and John Cook:

a)  Technocognition: Designing technology in a way that minimizes the impact of misinformation.

  • Establish an international NGO that would create a rating system for disinformation. Some examples that already exist are Climate Feedback, Snopes and Politifact. The challenge would be to convince conservatives to accept a neutral arbiter of facts, and continue accepting it when information they want to believe is ruled inaccurate.
  • These independent rulings could then be conveyed via technology. For example, Facebook could flag an article that’s based on false information as an unreliable source, and Google could give more weight in returning factually accurate news and information at the top of its search results lists.

b) Inoculation Technique: To help dislodge misinformation after it first takes hold.

  • This involves explaining the logical fallacy underpinning a myth. People don’t like being tricked, and research has shown that when they learn that an ideologically-friendly article has misinformed them by using fake experts, for example, they’re more likely to reject the misinformation.

4. What can be done legislatively:

  • Create a law that says political talk and opinion cannot call themselves “News” – especially if they don’t clearly identify news content vs. editorial content. Since all news has SOME opinion, it would have to be measured by volume; mostly talk and opinion would not be allowed to call themselves news. MSNBC for instance does not call themselves News. Fox News does.
  • Reinstitute The Fairness Doctrine and bring back The Telecommunications Act.


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