We’ve seen a few candidates give up their bid for the presidency already in this election cycle, but we haven’t seen folks in the media throw up their hands. Until now. This weekend, the Washington Post, the institution of Woodward and Bernstein and Ben Bradlee, simply can’t take the overwhelming amount of lies that plague the Internet.
Mark Twain once wrote, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” In contemporary society, those look a little bit more like lies, damned lies and memes.
Post writer Caitlin Dewey has spent the last 82 weeks scouring the web through insane ideas from famous quotes that people never said to absurd medical claims for her column “What Was Fake.” She’s over it.
“We launched “What was Fake” in May 2014 in response to what seemed, at the time, like an epidemic of urban legends and Internet pranks … Since then, those sorts of rumors and pranks haven’t slowed down, exactly, but the pace and tenor of fake news has changed. Where debunking an Internet fake once involved some research, it’s now often as simple as clicking around for an “about” or “disclaimer” page. And where a willingness to believe hoaxes once seemed to come from a place of honest ignorance or misunderstanding, that’s frequently no longer the case”
She’s spot on about the nature of the Internet. Think about the way that news has become a race for the best click-bait headline. Then there’s the business of the Internet hoax. There are advertisement laden websites with terrifying headlines telling you that you could be dying or something common could kill you or claiming to cure anything that ails you. Weight loss claims on websites alone are overwhelming for anyone actually looking for true medical information.
Cures and catch-alls aren’t the only sites out there. There’s an entire industry geared toward trolling with “hate clicks.” That’s right, websites troll the left from the right with inflammatory headlines about whatever beloved official or candidate. Then a clever network of Facebook pages and fake twitter accounts troll hashtags used by liberals to send these stories across the Internet. Other sites are outright fake news. These sites are literally invented news that is an outright lie, not satire, not parody, not The Onion, but an intentional lie. Dewey actually met someone that runs one of them as well:
“Paul Horner, the proprietor of Nbc.com.co and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.”
Another site she mentions is Now8News which is a website that uses stolen mugshots of people of color with insane crime stories to troll. World News Daily Report has hate stories about Muslims having sex with or killing animals.
This is the real “dark web” and Dewey is its latest victim.