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Facebook v. Fake News

In a welcome announcement, Facebook says that it will use third-party sources to fact-check news items on its social media service. It’s a shame they didn’t do this 8 years ago, or 8 months ago.

I had proposed via Twitter, on my Facebook timeline, and my personal web site, that Facebook add “Fake” as an alternative to its existing “Like,” “Love,” “Angry,” and “Sad.” It looks like Facebook is going to implement a variation on my suggestion by adding an “It’s a fake news story” option to their current spam reporting.

Read more:

44 Responses to Facebook v. Fake News

  1. avatar
    JD Reed December 15, 2016 at 11:44 pm  (Quote) #

    This is an interesting development. I don’t suppose the system will alert someone who pastes fake news that their post has been tagged as such. But as most posters look to see reaction to their posts, I suspect they’ll learn and become irate when they’re outed as purveyors of fake news.

    I have a recent real-life Facebook example that I wonder how it would have turned out had this change been in effect then. A church secretary, a really sweet lady away from politics, posted a message that claimed that Mike Pence had called Michelle Obama the most vulgar First Lady ever.
    What would have happened had I been able to publicly label this report as fake news? By doing so, would I have automatically been identified? If so, this would have caused a huge ruckus.

    Does anyone know how this will actually work in the real world?

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy December 15, 2016 at 11:52 pm  (Quote) #

    If Facebook knows the article fake, they warn the person attempting to share it first. Read the NPR article linked above for scenarios.

    JD Reed: I don’t suppose the system will alert someone who pastes fake news that their post has been tagged as such.

  3. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy December 15, 2016 at 11:55 pm  (Quote) #

    I pull no punches with my church friends that share fake news, and I have told some of them they should be ashamed of themselves.

    JD Reed: A church secretary, a really sweet lady away from politics, posted a message that claimed…

  4. avatar
    Lupin December 16, 2016 at 2:44 am  (Quote) #

    Every freedom can be woefully abused. As you said, it’s a shame this wasn’t implemented way back when.

    I’m glad you seem to realize that unfettered freedom of speech does have consequences.

    Obviously if people were “good”, this would not be necessary. But to quote Bill Gaines, “people are no damn good.”

  5. avatar
    Dave B. December 16, 2016 at 2:47 am  (Quote) #

    Okay, but where are they going to draw the lines between fake news, fake news masquerading as thin satire and the broad satire of absurdly fake news containing genuine elements of humor?

  6. avatar
    Cody Judy December 16, 2016 at 9:03 am  (Quote) #

    All comedians, actors, actresses, Hollywood Producers, Highschool Thespians, please report to jail the commi Bastards are here

  7. avatar
    donna December 16, 2016 at 10:53 am  (Quote) #
  8. avatar
    Rickey December 16, 2016 at 11:46 am  (Quote) #

    Cody Judy:
    All comedians, actors, actresses, Hollywood Producers, Highschool Thespians, please report to jail the commi Bastards are here

    There is an obvious difference between a skit on Saturday Night Live and a fake web site which pretends to be ABC News. It’s true that you have time and again demonstrated your inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy, but that’s on you.

  9. avatar
    Rickey December 16, 2016 at 11:54 am  (Quote) #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I pull no punches with my church friends that share fake news, and I have told some of them they should be ashamed of themselves.

    I should have made a list of all the fake news stories that I debunked on Facebook in the weeks prior to the election.

    One was posted by a lawyer I know, a fake article which said that Obama was no longer going to campaign for Clinton after Comey released his first letter about her emails. It was laughably easy to check, because the president’s public schedule is posted online. One would think that a lawyer would know, but then again we have lawyers like Larry Klayman and Montgomery Sibley.

  10. avatar
    Rickey December 16, 2016 at 12:19 pm  (Quote) #

    There was another fake story which claimed that an FBI agent who was investigating Clinton was so distraught by what he was finding that he murdered his wife, set his house on fire, and then committed suicide. The story quoted the town’s police chief.

    It took me five minutes to discover that the story misspelled the name of the town and that the town is so small that it doesn’t have a police chief.

  11. avatar
    Crustacean December 16, 2016 at 1:13 pm  (Quote) #

    I think almost everyone in the USA is taught that it’s not OK to shout “fire!” in a crowded theater (assuming it’s not on fire, that is), so no one is saying that unfettered freedom of speech is the way to go.

    But we don’t have a too-much-freedom-of-speech problem in the US. What we have is an education problem (low world ranking in education and literacy but a high ranking in “ignorance of social stastics,” for example). We are not taught how to dispassionately research topics, nor how to think critically – at least, not enough – and that is a nutrient-rich environment for purveyors of fake news.

    In my humble opinion, we should not fear the fake news (c’mon, those Weekly World News headlines in the grocery store checkout line are a hoot), but rather let’s vaccinate ourselves against bad information with rationality – and no religious exemptions on that vaccine!

    Of course, if Alex Jones says my proposed vaccine causes autism, then I’m like totally against it.

    Lupin: I’m glad you seem to realize that unfettered freedom of speech does have consequences.

  12. avatar
    trader jack December 16, 2016 at 4:23 pm  (Quote) #

    who watches the watchman?
    and who can tell if a story is false or not?

    Or ,perhaps, every source of news should have a disclaimer that every thing you see on any site must be considered to be possibly a fake statement.

  13. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy December 16, 2016 at 5:16 pm  (Quote) #

    The story is told of a child who asked his mother how to spell a word. She replied, “look it up in the dictionary.” The child asked how he could look it up in the dictionary without knowing she to spell it. She replied that the child should just start in the beginning and continue until he found the word.

    I think that if you made the effort, rather than whining, you could do a pretty good job of answering your own question.

    trader jack: who watches the watchman?
    and who can tell if a story is false or not?

  14. avatar
    JD Reed December 16, 2016 at 9:36 pm  (Quote) #

    trader jack:
    who watches the watchman?
    and who can tell if a story is false or not?

    Or ,perhaps, every source of news should have a disclaimer that every thing you see on any site must be considered to be possibly a fake statement.

    Well, you might consider a Bible verse: By their fruits you shall know them. If somebody has a record of posting utter nonsense, you should follow your initial inclination to distrust, until you have solid reason not to distrust. Does this sound like anyone we know?
    But Trader Jack et al try to delegitimize real news by implying the (false) equivalency of sites that have no track record of even trying to get the facts straight. Otherwise known as fake news sites. In many instances, even intelligent and intellectually honest amateurs can nail down the facts, while even at the same time fake news sites hotly deny the demonstrable facts.

  15. avatar
    Steve December 16, 2016 at 9:40 pm  (Quote) #

    Conservatives say things like “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.” are fake news.

    So are we obligated to criticize those things too even though they’re not the same as making up a story about a child sex ring out of whole cloth?

  16. avatar
    Rickey December 17, 2016 at 12:15 am  (Quote) #

    trader jack:

    and who can tell if a story is false or not?

    In most cases, I can. All it takes is the willingness to do some fact checking.

  17. avatar
    Pete December 17, 2016 at 2:53 am  (Quote) #

    In fact, all it takes is the willingness to do some fact checking, and the willingness to accept the results of that fact checking, whether you like the results or not.

  18. avatar
    Lupin December 17, 2016 at 5:38 am  (Quote) #

    Crustacean:
    I think almost everyone in the USA is taught that it’s not OK to shout “fire!” in a crowded theater (assuming it’s not on fire, that is), so no one is saying that unfettered freedom of speech is the way to go.

    But we don’t have a too-much-freedom-of-speech problem in the US.What we have is an education problem (low world ranking in education and literacy but a high ranking in “ignorance of social stastics,” for example).We are not taught how to dispassionately research topics, nor how to think critically – at least, not enough – and that is a nutrient-rich environment for purveyors of fake news.

    In my humble opinion, we should not fear the fake news (c’mon, those Weekly World News headlines in the grocery store checkout line are a hoot), but rather let’s vaccinate ourselves against bad information with rationality – and no religious exemptions on that vaccine!

    Of course, if Alex Jones says my proposed vaccine causes autism, then I’m like totally against it.

    I admire your idealistic view of society but that is not the world we live in. We (Europeans) learned from Goebbels that sometimes one should pull out the weeds before they proliferate and kill the good plants.

  19. avatar
    J.D. Sue December 17, 2016 at 9:48 am  (Quote) #

    Lupin: learned from Goebbels

    “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” Joseph Goebbels

  20. avatar
    JD Reed December 17, 2016 at 10:49 am  (Quote) #

    Pete:
    In fact, all it takes is the willingness to do some fact checking, and the willingness to accept the results of that fact checking, whether you like the results or not.

    Hear, hear! Pete and Rickey. What the Trader Jacks of this world seek is a mass surrender by the public to the idea that objective facts can’t be determined, and therefore my factual assertion is as good as yours, and I get to go with my confirmation bias, and by shouting louder than you, get the majority to go along with me.

  21. avatar
    trader jack December 17, 2016 at 4:14 pm  (Quote) #

    fake news is news that you do not believe, true news is news that you believe.

    You can not believe the President, the DOJ. the FBI, and most other agencies that have inherent biases.

    You can believe OJ guilty or not guilty based upon your personal beliefs.

    You can believe that the Republicans don’t spend money and Democrats don’t spend money, and you can believe that there are more people employed today, than there was last year, because BLS says so.

    You can believe there is no inflation, or rampant inflation based upon subject selection of facts.

    In most cases there are no facts to be proven, you just have to believe what someone tells you. or not believe them.

    Perhaps you need someone to tell you when facts are true or false. I don’t!

    Because you do not know what a fact is, although you think you do, and post according to your beliefs

  22. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy December 17, 2016 at 6:52 pm  (Quote) #

    No. Fake news is something intentionally made up by someone who knows that it is not true.

    trader jack: fake news is news that you do not believe, true news is news that you believe.

  23. avatar
    Joey December 17, 2016 at 7:36 pm  (Quote) #

    Perhaps the most famous example of fake news in American history was Orson Wells’ 1938 “War of the World’s” radio broadcast that supposedly caused widespread panic over a Martian invasion.

    Trader Jack is talking about differences of political opinion and points of view, not fake news.

  24. avatar
    Rickey December 17, 2016 at 8:36 pm  (Quote) #

    trader jack:
    fake news is news that you do not believe, true news is news that you believe.

    No, fake news is made up out of whole cloth – although you have proven time and again that what you believe is more important to you than what is real.

    Let me give you an example of fake news. A few days before the election a website calling itself The Denver Guardian posted a news story about an FBI agent named Michael Brown. The story said that Brown had been investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails and was under such intense pressure that he murdered his wife, set his house on fire and then shot himself in the head.

    The story said that this happened in Walkerville, Maryland and quoted Walkerville police chief Pat Frederick. The story was picked up by various anti-Clinton blogs and made its way to Facebook, which is where I saw it.

    How did I know that the story is fake? For one thing, Walkerville does not exist. There is a town in Maryland called Walkersville, but no Walkerville. I researched the town of Walkersville and discovered that it does not have a police chief named Pat Frederick. In fact, it is a town of just 5800 and does not even have a police department, much less a police chief. The town relies upon the State Police for law enforcement.

    Walkersville is 60 miles from D.C. but neither the Washington Post nor the conservative Washington Times carried a story about the supposed murder-suicide.

    Once the election was over, The Denver Guardian website was scrubbed of all content.

    So the story of “Michael Brown” is not a matter of belief or non-belief. It either happened or it didn’t. There is no gray area.

    More on how to identify fake news:

    http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/05/503581220/fake-or-real-how-to-self-check-the-news-and-get-the-facts

  25. avatar
    JD Reed December 17, 2016 at 8:40 pm  (Quote) #

    <blockquote cite="comment-381335"

    trader jack:
    fake news is news that you do not believe, true news is news that you believe.

    You can not believe the President, the DOJ. the FBI, and most other agencies that have inherent biases.

    You can believe OJ guilty or not guilty based upon your personal beliefs.

    You can believe thatthe Republicans don’t spend money and Democrats don’t spend money, andyou can believe that there are more people employedtoday, than there was last year, because BLS says so.

    Youcan believe there is no inflation, or rampant inflation based upon subject selection of facts.

    In most cases there are no facts to be proven, you just have to believe what someone tells you. or notbelieve them.

    Perhaps you need someone to tell you when facts are true or false.Idon’t!

    Because you do not know what a fact is, although you think you do, and post according to your beliefs

    Speak for yourself, Jack! You may not know what the facts are most of the time, but this is a product of your personal skill set. As previously noted, a person of reasonably high intelligence, good education and Intellectual honesty can determine facts to a moral certainty in many instances. Your inflation example poses a false choice. Neither option is correct, because although there is some inflation, it’s low and far from rampant. Nobody with any credibility would say rampant.

    An intellectually honest person tries not to make a positive assertion when he knows he doesn’t have the facts to make the call.*
    An intellectually dishonest person does as you suggest: “Because you do not know what a fact is, although you think you do, and post according to your briefs.”
    BTW, this is a huge problem with our upcoming 45th president. He repeatedly makes false assertions such as that crime is at a record high, that there are 93 million adults desperate for jjobs, that 3 million people voted illegally, ad nauseum.
    * Abraham Lincoln said it best: “I believe it is an established maxim in morals that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false, is guilty of falsehood, and the accidental truth of the assertion, does not justify or excuse him.”

  26. avatar
    Northland10 December 17, 2016 at 8:46 pm  (Quote) #

    trader jack: fake news is news that you do not believe, true news is news that you believe.

    Funny how somebody wrote about the concept of fake news (or at least fake teachers) many years ago.

    2 Timothy 3:1-8 (NIV)

    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

    They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.

    Hmm.. the description sounds an awful lot like some recent winner of an election.

    It goes on in chapter 4:1-4

    In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

    Fake news creators and other conspiracy pushers make their trade off of the itchy ear crowd. They know that there are always those who are too eager to hear what they want to hear. They accept the fake news as long as it fits the belief they already have.

  27. avatar
    Lupin December 18, 2016 at 4:12 am  (Quote) #

    A few weeks ago I put her a link to an old press article that showed that a fake news newspaper from California that had published a fake news article about a German victory in WWI was successfully prosecuted on the basis of your fraud statutes.

    Maybe Doc can find my original link.

    This proves than even in the US, despite your First amendment, there was a time when such garbage was recognized for what it was and prosecuted.

    Chamberlain’s legacy has been (somewhat unfairly) summarized by the shot of him waving that paper signed in Munich. I’m afraid Obama’s will be paving the way for Trump into the WH.

  28. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy December 18, 2016 at 7:54 am  (Quote) #
  29. avatar
    Dave B. December 18, 2016 at 7:47 pm  (Quote) #

    I see a lot of the fake news sites are recycling the old “Obama’s lawyer admitted forgery” story from the Daily Pen this week.

  30. avatar
    Dave B. December 18, 2016 at 8:59 pm  (Quote) #

    I just saw this little bit of fake news insanity in a Facebook comment over at the I-Patriot:

    “All branches of the military should march up to the white house and arrest Obama for crimes against America. The military had attempted this once before and Obama had them killed stating they were car ring the wrong flag.”

    http://ipatriot.com/obamas-birth-defect-captured-sheriff-joe/

    What the heck is that about?

  31. avatar
    RanTalbott December 19, 2016 at 2:09 am  (Quote) #

    Lupin: This proves than even in the US, despite your First amendment, there was a time when such garbage was recognized for what it was and prosecuted.

    It appears from the partial story that the kids were arrested because the newspaper was fake, not the story. If, say, some prankster had managed to get that story on the UPI wire, and the SF Chronicle had published it, there wouldn’t have been prosecution. Just some suddenly-vacant desks in the newsroom 😉

  32. avatar
    Lupin December 19, 2016 at 3:46 am  (Quote) #

    RanTalbott: It appears from the partial story that the kids were arrested because the newspaper was fake, not the story. If, say, some prankster had managed to get that story on the UPI wire, and the SF Chronicle had published it, there wouldn’t have been prosecution. Just some suddenly-vacant desks in the newsroom

    Point taken. But what is the difference between a fraudulent newspaper and Alex Jones’ site?

  33. avatar
    RanTalbott December 19, 2016 at 5:38 am  (Quote) #

    Lupin: But what is the difference between a fraudulent newspaper and Alex Jones’ site?

    Legally? Or Morally? 😉

    My guess is that the legal difference is that the buyers of the fake newspaper reasonably expected that they were getting a real newspaper with real news, and the offense would be similar to selling factory-reject or customer-returned products as though they were new. But you should ask a real lawyer to be sure.

    Morally, the difference is that, afaik, Alex Jones actually believes his nonsense.

  34. avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater December 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm  (Quote) #

    Dave B.:
    I see a lot of the fake news sites are recycling the old “Obama’s lawyer admitted forgery” story from the Daily Pen this week.

    Yep I’ve heard several birthers make this claim and when confronted on it they don’t back it up.

  35. avatar
    Arthur B. December 19, 2016 at 2:51 pm  (Quote) #

    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater: Yep I’ve heard several birthers make this claim and when confronted on it they don’t back it up.

    The false claim can apparently be traced back to Mario’s howler, Purpura v. Obama, discussed at Snopes here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthers/ineligible.asp.

    ‘Contrary to the egregiously bad piece of “reporting” from the Examiner cited in the example above, at no time during the hearings did Alexandra Hill or any other lawyer representing Barack Obama “admit that the long-form birth certificate presented by the White House is a total forgery.”‘

  36. avatar
    Dave B. December 19, 2016 at 3:30 pm  (Quote) #

    And from Marius himself:
    “I am not personally aware of Ms. Hill ever admitting during the court proceedings that the posted image of the 4-27-11 birth certificate is a forgery. What she did stipulate to is that the image was not to be used as evidence in the court proceeding or by the NJ Secretary of State and that there was no other evidence before the court or the Secretary of State as to Obama’s identity or place of birth. She said such evidence was all irrelevant to Obama getting on the NJ primary election ballot. ALJ Masin confirmed with her that that was her position and that there was no evidence before the court as to Obama’s identity or place of birth and that such evidence was irrelevant. She agreed with the judge’s assessment and the case proceeded on that basis.”
    http://puzo1.blogspot.com/2012/04/update-on-purpura-and-moran-new-jersey.html?showComment=1334781696088#c3285079543665639701

    Here’s the play-by-play–
    All Alexandra Hill did was agree to the obvious– that no version of the birth certificate had been presented as legal evidence in that particular case.
    Judge Masin pointed out that testimony regarding the authenticity of something that hadn’t been presented as evidence in the first place was irrelevant. Mario then said,
    “That’s perfectly fine with our position, provided that counsel is willing to stipulate that whatever’s on the internet will not be considered as evidence of a birth certificate either by your honor or the Secretary of State.”
    Judge Masin then discussed the Secretary of State’s role, and reiterated that such testimony was irrelevant. The exchange continued–

    Mario: Can we have a clear stipulation that that internet birth certificate is in no way evidence in any shape or form whether or not…
    Judge Masin: In this case.
    Mario: Yes, in this case.
    Judge Masin: It’s not before me. It’s not in the record.
    Mario: Can we have a stipulation?
    Judge Masin: Miss Hill?
    Alexandra Hill: I’m not– I’m not presenting it in this case, no.
    Mario: The internet image…
    Alexandra Hill: I don’t have it. Sorry, I don’t have it.
    Judge Masin: It’s not here. I can assure you, I’ve never seen it; I haven’t looked at it; I’m certainly not going to look at it in regard to deciding this case. It has not been offered; it’s not in the record and if the Secretary– and, and my understanding of the law, and I’ve been doing this for a long time, is the Secretary of State can’t suddenly look at the internet and say “Oh, there’s the birth certificate, ” because that would be outside the record of this case.
    Mario then agreed that his witness was not needed–
    Mario: Again, that’s based on the stipulation that that internet image is nonexistent…
    Judge Masin: Well, it’s not that it’s nonexistent– it is not in the record of this case.
    Mario: This case…
    Judge Masin: And that’s all I can decide this case on, is the record of this case. I could not look here anywhere and say “Ah! somebody gave me the birth certificate of Barack Obama.” It’s not here.

    Arthur B.: The false claim can apparently be traced back to Mario’s howler, Purpura v. Obama, discussed at Snopes here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthers/ineligible.asp.

    ‘Contrary to the egregiously bad piece of “reporting” from the Examiner cited in the example above, at no time during the hearings did Alexandra Hill or any other lawyer representing Barack Obama “admit that the long-form birth certificate presented by the White House is a total forgery.”‘

  37. avatar
    Crustacean December 20, 2016 at 2:26 pm  (Quote) #

    Yes, idealism will always be my compass, but I’m not so naïve to think there aren’t icebergs out there to avoid. As I said, crying “fire!” in a crowded theater is justifiably verboten, as is referring to people as “subhuman” and inciting goons to beat them in the street. That’s what Goebbels did, and it’s the kind of thing that would not pass First Amendment muster, since the US Supreme Court insists that hateful speech is not permitted if it is likely to cause imminent harm. As J.S. Mill put it, “An opinion that corn dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard.”

    Goebbels was a master of the art of rhetoric, and he was a government official. Let’s not confuse gossip rag headlines or some idiot uploading made-up crap from his mom’s basement with an authoritarian dispensing lies to a population teeming with humiliated, angry citizens. For the latter, if you propose we lock ’em up and throw away the key, I’m fully on board with that.

    But if one is to go about pulling weeds, the first step is to define “weeds” and “good plants,” and good luck with that slippery slope. It’s also advisable to make sure you get the bad guys by the roots. If all you do is chop off the top, they grow back worse than before. Goebbels was jailed for insulting a police chief in the late twenties. A lot of good that did.

    Lupin: I admire your idealistic view of society but that is not the world we live in. We (Europeans) learned from Goebbels that sometimes one should pull out the weeds before they proliferate and kill the good plants.

  38. avatar
    J.D. Sue December 20, 2016 at 5:27 pm  (Quote) #

    Crustacean: gossip rag headlines or some idiot uploading made-up crap from his mom’s basement

    —-

    What’s going on in the US now is much more than just gossip rags or idiots in their mom’s basement. And white supremacists/nazis like Spencer and Duke are careful to say “no violence” when they launch a hateful intimidation campaign, so they can avoid allegations of incitement to violence. See, e.g., http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/daily-stomer-racist-white-supremacist-troll-montana-whitefish-love-lives-here-jews-target-donald-a7483396.html

  39. avatar
    Crustacean December 21, 2016 at 1:54 pm  (Quote) #

    Thank you for that interesting article, Sue. I agree that such behavior is disgusting. The question is whether or not it crosses the First Amendment line. The Supreme Court has ruled that intimidating speech – burning a cross, for example – is NOT protected. Likewise, libel is not protected speech. If this neo-Nazi jerk has threatened or libeled anyone, he definitely should face harsh consequences.

    But the discussion here was about fake news and Lupin’s position that the First Amendment is too broad in that regard. I simply disagree, that’s all. But I have been doing a lot of thinking about his position (something I always try to do, but especially when the person I disagree with is clearly smarter and better educated than I am 🙂 ). I think I get it: fake news/propaganda inspires people to vote for a ridiculous candidate, who through a combination of ignorance and mental instability brings untold misery to the populace, starts a world war, and murders people by the millions; ergo the phrase, “The Holocaust began with words.”

    OK, fair enough, but exactly which words started the Holocaust? Were they the ones Goebbels libelously wrote about Berlin’s Jewish police chief? Were they contained in Hitler’s beer hall speeches? Was it the first time Hitler insulted a Jewish classmate in Kindergarten? Going around stamping out unpleasant speech may feel good, but it’s fraught with peril. An example was given on this blog about a French (I think) politician who was jailed for calling a dark-skinned opponent a gorilla (or something like that). Kudos, right? But how black does someone have to be for that to be a hate crime? Is it OK to call a white politician a monkey? Should all insults be felonies? Because I’d like to be able to call Donald Trump an effing orangutan to his face without having to go to jail for it. Not that I would (I would), but I’d like to be able to.

    That reminds me, do you know who hates “fake” news and would like to “open up” libel laws? You know who! Of course, to him “fake” news includes anthropogenic global warming and anything related to his conflict-of-interest business dealings, and of course his misogyny. Making fake news a crime sounds all well and good, until scary, crazy people get to decide what’s fake, what’s real, and what’s in YOUR best interest.

    J.D. Sue: What’s going on in the US now is much more than just gossip rags or idiots in their mom’s basement. And white supremacists/nazis like Spencer and Duke are careful to say “no violence” when they launch a hateful intimidation campaign, so they can avoid allegations of incitement to violence. See, e.g.,

  40. avatar
    J.D. Sue December 21, 2016 at 2:31 pm  (Quote) #

    Crustacean: Going around stamping out unpleasant speech may feel good, but it’s fraught with peril.

    —-
    I totally see your point and, as an American and a lawyer who loves the 1st Amendment, I too don’t believe in criminalizing speech in America (nor allowing the libelous Trump to “open up” libel laws). That said, I think that our laws against verbal incitement of violence aren’t very helpful, and that Faux News and fake news are doing us in. I don’t know what the solution is.

  41. avatar
    Lupin December 22, 2016 at 8:52 am  (Quote) #

    Crustacean: But if one is to go about pulling weeds, the first step is to define “weeds” and “good plants,” and good luck with that slippery slope. It’s also advisable to make sure you get the bad guys by the roots. If all you do is chop off the top, they grow back worse than before. Goebbels was jailed for insulting a police chief in the late twenties. A lot of good that did.

    We (in France and Germany, that i know of) have had no problems with this for the last 70 years or so, so this is not a hypothetical exercise (to us) but something that works very well, thank you.

    If you don’t know how to write sensible laws, borrow from us; and besides, there are sensible judges and appeal courts to handle borderline situations.

    Just this week the public prosecutor dragged the Mayor of Beziers in from of a lower criminal; court for having said there were ‘too many” Muslim children in the public schools. (Which isn’t even true.) He’ll very likely be fined and I think it is a good thing.

    The notion that your first amendment experiment works is as naive as that of letting corporations do anything they want, and trust the “free market” to “self-regulate” corporate behavior.

    It doesn’t work, we’ve seen plenty of examples of that; and it doesn’t work for speech either. The truth will never prevail over the lies, because the truth is much harder to establish. Whereas lies can be made up instantly by any guy in his mom;’s basement. Lies always drown out the truth, not the opposite.

    I certainly don’t think your tolerance of hate speech and lies (e.g. BR and their ilk) is the primary factor responsible for Trump’s victory, but i do believe that letting that stuff run out of control is IN PART responsible for where you are today.

    Someone suffocating from excess pollution might develop second thoughts about the good of government regulations and free market; I would hope you might reflect upon the same thing vis a vis free speech.

  42. avatar
    Crustacean December 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm  (Quote) #

    It should be against the law to say things like that. 😉

    More on this later, but it’s going to take some time for me to assemble my thoughts (some of us aren’t professional writers, y’know!). Let’s just say I remain unconvinced of your position.

    I should probably know better than to argue with a Sorbonne-educated lawyer…

    Lupin: The truth will never prevail over the lies, because the truth is much harder to establish.

  43. avatar
    Lupin December 23, 2016 at 2:33 am  (Quote) #

    I’m not against free speech — I stood in favor of CHARLIE-HEBDO and their right to publish the so-called Muhammad caricatures under French Law (when many US media shied away from even showing the cover in a newsreport because of because) so believe me when I say I weigh the pros and the cons.

    What I’m saying is, if you’re in favor of the Government having some sensible oversight over, say, pollution and food safety, you shouldn’t be against it having the same oversight over treasonous, seditious hate speech that goes against everything your country stands for — and as we’ve just seen, such speech can have a tangible harmful effect on society, just as toxic as lead in the water.

  44. avatar
    Lupin December 23, 2016 at 3:20 am  (Quote) #

    First, let me preface what follows by saying this is not a US vs France thing; I am seriously worried that a Putin-financed French National Front may seize power in next year’s election and destroy the European Union. Germany is under attack as well. And the only rational alternative right now seems to be a honest if hopelessly mired in the past Friedmanesque candidate on the legitimate Right (Fillon). Our Left is in disarray, both ideologically and strategically, locked in much worse internecine conflicts than the Clinton/Sanders one. So right now things suck here. We haven’t taken the plunge into the abyss you guys just have, but I fear we might.

    That being out of the way, I want to float out the notion that your Constitution, and indeed your democratic experiment as a whole, has now failed, by being unable to adapt to 21st century politics. Your elections and indeed entire political system has become totally dysfunctional and would require a consensus on massive constitutional changes which, frankly, I don’t see as happening.

    Since General de Gaulle established the French Firth Republic and a new Constitution in 1958, this Constitution has been amended/updated 24 times, last in 2008.

    (If you’re really interested here is a list of the Constitutional Amendments:

    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_fran%C3%A7aise_du_4_octobre_1958#Liste_des_r.C3.A9visions )

    My point is, your Constitution has failed you because you in turn have failed your Constitution. The recent example of Congress refusing to confirm or not confirm Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court is but one example of such failure. The Electoral College debacle is another one.

    When Stephen Colbert recently did a feature on what is NORM vs what is LAW vis à vis your President, I was flabbergasted by how many things were not LAW but merely NORMs. This is not the 1800s any more, guys.

    When you finally emerge from the long, dark tunnel ahead of you (hoping you don’t drag us all down with you), you’re going to have to seriously reform your institutions.

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