The Real News About Fake News

ABC News' Pierre Thomas and Forbes' Kalev Leetaru join Ryan Struyk for a conversation about how fake headlines can have real-world implications.
14:25 | 12/09/16

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Transcript for The Real News About Fake News
Something so much for joining us live on Right now. We're in our newsroom here in downtown Washington DC. And we're getting ready to break down the real news about fake news. If you've been on social media at all over the last couple weeks there's no doubt you've probably heard something about fake news and kind of what's been happening over the last couple of week. I'm here with our senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas. And cult linked Harlow who is a that's senior fellow at George Washington University right here in DC. Speaking is have to kind of close to home here in DC this week it's been in the news helped public figures like. Like Hillary Clinton and Pope Francis. Have have made mention of in the last couple of weeks but here I wanna start with you and kind of what's happened just down the street here at a popular pizzeria right here in DC tell me I mean a little bit about what. On Sunday a man showed up. Within assault rifle and two other farms and basically one about the restaurant looking for what he thought was a child abuse rhetoric. Totally bogus story a totally made up story. And the Genesis of it is that WikiLeaks. Had an exchange between the owner of the rest front. And Clinton Campaign manager Don the best. They were talking about a fund raiser of some sort and somehow that morphed into this big lie. That nefarious an awful activity was going on a decorous. And this man again sought. Apparently. It was published on social media and he came to quote self investigate according to please raise them with this whole thing was prompted by. Some kind of fake news article that he saw on line that again. Didn't really have any basis in reality no basis in fact and if you love journalism if you love the truth. This is a deeply troubling story because. It's the prime example of how they lie. Can turn into direct action with people potentially having their lives at risk that restaurant. Comment ping pong. Pizza restaurant is a place where families go very popular in that maybe that neighborhood. So that was a very disturbing thing that took place. And it might be easy to think you know that this is something like. I would be able to talent something at stake are not by he talks in the New York Times. The alleged shooter talks the New York Times earlier this week. He said. He admitted quote that Intel on this 100%. But then said he's that this is by kind of jumped out at me if that. I just wanted to do some good in when about it in the wrong way so this is somebody who. Who really. You know have identified this as this as a serious story and and won its. And wanted to take. Back how to act signed by. Obviously like you know like you said it wasn't true. The case is still being adjudicated but listless fiscal effects that we. He's person showed up in this room with. And basically one about looking through the rest now matching that. You're in that restaurant and there's a man with an assault rifle looking around Warren something that does not exist. Limits out so you know I want people to really understand market. This lie turned into a person in a rest from. With and so wonderful and hand and we are told the league's allegation that three shots were fired. In. Its. It's this kind of prime example of how a fake headline can turn into these believe the real world implications in column I want to bring in now because. You've you've been kind of digging into this idea of fake news. And I'm gonna ask you this question that may sound a little deceptively simple by maybe not so simple. And I questions just. What is fake news. You know this I think it's one fastening exists in you think about you know fitness makes for wonderful media that the quote fake news. All but you know really I think a bit more to continue immunity think one and you know you have things like the onion you know satirical sites that there entertained you know not to deceive. All of but this can create problems because they think about like the borer with the New Yorkers Horwitz report. Beckett shared so many times because people see always new Yorker and they think it's a news article vs think they don't realize they don't do that research at the -- this is for satire or and I think it was 2002 I think it was in the nation of Kiribati all they read a satirical article that said in the US navy is coming to invade care Bonnie and that's create widespread panic because. There's no magic mark that goes along we'll use that says hey this is satirical. On on the other hand you do have you know things are it is deliberately designed to to deceive. You know especially me Russia for example in many parts of the world within two singles have a fake news is all the sensitive topic here in the US but elsewhere in the world this is that a problem for a long time. If that there's been and some countries a lot of ethnic tension that's occurred where some of put out of stories to Haiti somewhat from this group attacked someone from our group. On an action Crable violence but I think what's I think it's as if those million shades of gray in between all these things where someone seeing some pieces of facts. And they see it to a different lines perhaps and a different ones that we might. This is the south it's hard to it to really prove whether they are not you know I thought headline the other day couldn't really won the election. And the evidence was she won the popular vote is that fake news or not what's with the you know if you're looking at who won the actual whose can become president. Its faults but if you look at through different lands while it could be true and I think this of the fast anything else. You'll really that that notion that so much of what we see is is really so much a fake news is we aren't difference of interpretation of information. Right seeming have several different. A source is an article that are coming out different biases. All but that same information it's any different ways right and then and then maybe in a separate. Had a very you have stories like this what an honor just. Completely completely designed that way in some cases tell me a little bit more about bat about web YA. Some of these fake news articles. May just come out of left field and have and have nothing nothing true about. You know in some cases you have obviously nation states you know Russia for example other nations they sort of putting things out in the specifically. Trying to sort of evolved and get the population come on easy and you think about the US election. You know hacking you know people's emails putting out there. All you know that's one thing but then how do you spin all those emails like you know he would just say you know it based on some exchange that kind of got spun out a different way. On bill that's come a classic notion some information warfare. On and I think what was it precinct today as you know information warfare countries have always done this. What's interest in two days with the rise of social media and citizens. All of you know all and that meant it was easy for the story to go viral if you need to kind of loose track of who sending this story in an effort at the what percentage of links today we share without even reading them in this information just rockets out there. And that at this point 060 you know someone so it's posted with the dispersant really reputable all because they heard it from someone who heard it was it was a sort of the telephone game and the million. Is that even something that start off as true news you know if it would tell forget about how to get totally got here the facts have been so distorted as a completely different story. Run one thing that. A lot of law enforcement people of talk to me about in the passes that. Yet to realize that when information goes out it washes over the stable and the unstable. So there are people who are unstable we're going to view this material. And then take action based on so I think the people who are engaging. In this connectivity. Need to think. About it a lot more and added when I would make is that we're in a moment where the public has. Not very much trusts in quote the media. So now people are going to select places to get your news and as a whole question about what is true that one is not true and what we're. I think in a very critical moment where the American public and we are going to have to help them discern between what's legitimate. And what's not. And those of us who do journalism I think we're going to have to. I try to be as accurate as thoughtful as we can be so that people come to trust us as a place to come to get the news. And NPR another you've been doing this for decades here in DC and and have covered some of these most sensitive stories and and really understand of the scrutiny that it takes to make sure they're getting story right. So what advice would you have to somebody who's you know. Maybe sitting at home right now scrolling through their FaceBook feed and and about to go to that next headline what what advice would you copper. For someone who's there. May I think one of the things that people can do and should do is go to more than one source. If you only find information in one place and there's nothing else like it. Skeptics you know skepticism since in soon. Are also I think by going to different places and you see a consistent. Message of information that should tell you something about mystery for us. Hopeful. Another idea that we are just talking about kind of before we came on with the idea of news literacy. And Stanford University put out this great study just the other day where they asked to different students kind of to identify a weather news with real or not or whether with an advertisement in and things like that so they asked a group of middle school students. Whether they could tell that a link with sponsored content or not it was identified by the content and more than 80% of them thought it was a real news story. They asked another group of high school students whether they could identify a fake Twitter account pretending to be Fox News. And only one in four knew that it wasn't real because it didn't have the boom to check mark next to it that signals that the verified account. So what they in this was this what kind of they summed up the reserved by saying. In every case and at every level we were taken aback by students lack of preparation. So tell me about kind of the state of news literacy. I think that's the fascinating topic because I think really fake news exists because of sort of thing especially in this country we have access to so much information we have the tools at our ability on two two to us I think I think it really comes down to. We failed as society teacher Simpson's how to be critical about information you think about. Every day you know that email from that Nigerian princes offering you ten million dollars if you just wire that 101000 dollar fee. Enough people each day actually wire that money at that continues today. You know what you think about that. You know that the notion that you know the notion of going the Celtics from the on bear in going to face nukes calmer going out somewhere. That we don't we don't pass the multiple we don't look to multiple sources but I think there's also within my Galileo few with a line today. On you know that beat you know fake news if this nut case freedoms tin foil hat wearing person saying that the earth rotates around the sun is just one person. Every other expert in the world is well not every but majority experts are saying absolutely fake. I think these days I think questions all of you know in the scientific world you know it's true into its not its fault that the what's true and I think again that notion of looking critically reading below you don't think that people read below the abstract the actual details. On us and journalism the fourth estate if you will. To try to educate. Young people I'd participate in something called a news literacy project where we go to high schools and we talked to young people about. You're how to discern. About good journalists. Also I think you know communities have to teach children. How to discern how to gather information because and democracy can't really function properly. If everyone's walking round would ban from. But that's right and and we thought it really over. You know over the course of the last several months and he has you know especially over the last week. Here kind of way what but the impact of that information can be. They let's talk a little bit more about. About what we can look at alignment kind of individual. Stories we talked about kind of the importance of looking up and I've multiple sources. But I feel Lincoln my a in my Twitter feeder or some like that way. What what may be signs but I look for to be skeptical of back kind of right off the bat. I think technology actually could be can be powerful care. All in that you know 11 thing that I was looked force the level emotional language helped pull the license this. Is this article preclinical you take for example New York Times article historically Tempe very clinically and hear the facts here are the things. You know I look at something and either and either side of of the political spectrum it has been very you know emotional you know are seen here you know the dabhol himself. All and that's certainly can be big indicator because that shows that whatever you know things are that this author feel strongly enough about this topic of the expanding it. All but I think again all you know I think that's a big thing awful citations facts so if you're if you're looking like if you're interrogator for example you're looking at something. Oftentimes you're really looking back to this person hand waving stuff will be given precise facts in fighting the evidence for that. And that was a big piece without that wash post article about you know every you know Russian propaganda out there. You'll citing the strange shadowy organization that said you know what I can tell you anyone who we are but trust this we looked at some articles we kind of did some some human interpretation and here's our conclusion. That would be very different that if you secure the actual people behind it here's a methodology you know here's our twenty page you know. Let's check by check how we went through each piece all the evidence behind that that I think this is crucial is providing evidence that there are people that want to look further can. You know I think people need to be encouraged to look for warnings. What organizations. Do you think actually do legitimate journalism. And you know we'd like to make an ABC news that we have a stellar brand of journalism so I think that can be promoted the other thing is I think. You have to again break down to people. The differences between the various forms of journalists recently if you take a New York Times or Washington Post there's going to be. The news section and is to editorial section. And those sort of breaking breaking things down into the basics with people will help them discern when they look at television hate is that a opinions show or is that a new show. And so you be surprised. How a lot of people have not been given bills the markers if you will in terms of how to discern what's news what's. Ray and that's something that I think we're all going to be continuing to facing continued to help folks sort out over over the next few months. Thank you so much Pierre college. From anything is here in Washington my name's Ryan struck thanks so much for joining us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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