Part of a link to a fake news story about a vaccine that supposedly causes autism shared by Senator Laura Woods. Additional images below.
Part of a link to a fake news story about a vaccine that supposedly causes autism shared by Senator Laura Woods. Additional images below.
BigMedia.org screen capture

Media Critic on Colorado Lawmakers Who've Spread, Liked Fake News

As we've reported, media critic Jason Salzman has challenged Colorado lawmakers to sign a pledge not to spread fake news stories, and his request is far more than theoretical.

In a post on his website, BigMedia.org, Salzman documents eight examples of fake news stories that were shared or liked on Facebook by members of the Colorado legislature, all of whom left the items to linger on their pages long after they were debunked.

"Legislators have been spreading fake news, too, and no one's holding them accountable for it," Salzman says. "This is a way to try and do that."

Among those cited by Salzman is Representative Polly Lawrence, a Republican from Roxborough Park who serves as the Assistant House Minority Leader. On November 6, she put up a post with the headline, WHOA! Hillary Caught On Hot Mic Trashing Beyonce’ with RACIAL SLURS! Looks like Hillary may have just lost one of her biggest endorsements.” Here's a screen capture.

Media Critic on Colorado Lawmakers Who've Spread, Liked Fake News
BigMedia.org screen capture

As you can see, Lawrence introduced the link with a note that reads, "If this is true, it fits in with the accusation that the Democrats only work with the African-American community when they need votes."

But it wasn't true, as Snopes documented on November 5 — the day before Lawrence shared the piece.

State Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Colorado Springs Republican known for numerous examples of overt homophobia (like saying of Caitlin Jenner, "This man needs an exorcism"), played a similar game with an EndingTheFed.com "Breaking News" announcement that declared, "IT’S OVER: Wikileaks Exposes The Assassination of Scalia… This Will Bring Down the Clintons and the Democratic Party!"

See that post below.

Media Critic on Colorado Lawmakers Who've Spread, Liked Fake News
BigMedia.org screen capture

Determining that this post was false didn't require much heavy lifting, given that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of natural causes — but Snopes confirmed it was bogus anyhow. Nevertheless, Klingenschmitt's intro to the link reads. "Anybody have a comment on this? Scalia dies same weekend after Podesta (for Hillary Clinton) sends this ‘wet works’ email? Hmmmm."

To Salzman, the doubt expressed by Lawrence and Klingenschmitt about the veracity of these posts doesn't excuse their actions.

"Spreading rumors is not a good thing if you're an elected leader, and that's what this amounts to," Salzman says. "In fact, I think writing 'If this is true' might make them even more culpable for the problem, because they had this inkling that it wasn't true but shared it anyway, whereas some of the other ones may have thought these things actually were true."

That appears to have been the case when Senator Laura Woods, a Republican from Arvada, shared a FreePatriot.org story that featured the image at the top of this post and a headline that reads, "Courts Quietly Confirm that ONE Children’s Vaccine Does Cause Autism." However, Politifact had revealed that this claim was phony a full year earlier.

"All it would have taken was a five-minute search to figure out that these things weren't true," Salzman points out about all the fake news he cites. "They were all heavily documented by reputable sources — and if they won't accept them as arbiters, they should explain why."

A fake news story shared by Senator Tim Neville, a Republican from Littleton.
A fake news story shared by Senator Tim Neville, a Republican from Littleton.
BigMedia.org screen capture

Such a response could get into political territory. Each of the lawmakers castigated by Salzman is a Republican, and even though Salzman doesn't see his attack on fake news as a partisan matter, he acknowledges that "the phenomenon has been more of a conservative problem because there's more of a market for it. That's why some of the folks promoting fake news who have no ideological bent choose conservative fake news — because it sells more ads for their websites."

Still, Salzman encourages Democrats and Republicans alike to sign his pledge, and he's also created a version for regular folks; the text and links for both can be found below.

"There's been a lot of emphasis on how Facebook and Google are part of this problem, and certainly they are," Salzman admits. "But all of us can understand how important it is not to spread this stuff."

Continue to see the two fake-news pledges, complete with links to BigMedia.org.

Fake News Pledge for Elected Officials

As an elected official, I agree that the spread of fake news on Facebook and other social media platforms has a toxic effect on rational civic discourse. And I understand that when community leaders spread fake news, we legitimize it. By our example, we encourage people to play fast and loose with facts, and we blur the lines between real journalism and fabricated stories masquerading as news.

So, to promote informed and reasoned debate, I pledge not to knowingly spread fake news. If I accidentally do so, by sharing, “liking,” or posting inaccurate information, packaged to look somehow like news, I will remove the falsehood as soon as possible and post a correction, as well as an explanation of why I posted it in the first place.

If it’s deemed unproven or false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet, information from my Facebook page will be removed as soon as possible — or detailed reasons for not deleting it will be provided.

Fake News Pledge for Citizens

I agree that the spread of fake news on Facebook and other social media platforms has a toxic effect on rational civic discourse. When people spread fake news, the lines between real journalism and fabricated stories masquerading as news are blurred, undermining meaningful discussion in our democracy.

So, to promote informed and reasoned debate, I pledge not to knowingly spread fake news. If I accidentally do so, by sharing, “liking,” or posting inaccurate information, packaged to look somehow like news, I will remove the falsehood as soon as possible and post a correction as well as an explanation of why I posted it in the first place.

If it’s deemed unproven or false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet, information from my Facebook page will be removed as soon as possible — or detailed reasons for not deleting it will be provided.

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