In a very welcome development, PolitiFact has launched a project to document and identify sites that peddle fake news, in conjunction with Facebook, which is trying to find ways to prevent the use of its site to spread lies so effectively.
Since December, we at PolitiFact have been partnering with Facebook to root out fabricated reports shared by social media users. As of April 19, we’ve written more than 80 fact-checks about fake news stories. We’ve noted some trends along the way, chief among them that it can be really difficult for readers — from casual skimmers to seasoned newshounds — to spot fake news outlets when they pop up.
It’s also difficult to determine where these fictional stories come from, and just how they spread across the Internet.
Using our experiences, we’ve been able to create our own fake news almanac. We want to help readers sort out fact from fiction on your social news feeds, so we compiled a list of every website on which we’ve found deliberately false or fake news stories since we started working along with Facebook — 156 in all.
This is all very good. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. It identifies sites that claim to be satire or parody, and it identifies sites that just plain make up lies, but it only catches a few sites that do what is really pernicious and more difficult to spot, which is take a little bit of real news and distort it, usually along with highly dishonest headlines. I’m glad to see, for instance, that their list includes Occupy Democrats as a fake news site, but it does not include most of the list I compiled last year or the many other similar sites. It doesn’t include DailyNewsBin, the Palmer Report, Addicting Info, PoliticusUSA and many others.
What those sites typically do is use a very dishonest headline that is not supported by the body of the article, knowing that about 60% of people who share links to those articles never read beyond the headline. Or they take a quote or story from somewhere else and offer up a ridiculous or caricatured interpretation of it that, again, is simply not supported by the facts. That makes people less likely to recognize that the stories are a lie because they typically won’t bother to follow the link (if there is one) to the original reporting on which their lies are based.
So I’m glad to see PolitiFact get involved with this, but I hope they expand the project and go after sites like USUncut, IfYouOnlyNews, The Federalist (and the dozens of other right-wing sites that pioneered the strategy that the left is now emulating).