Moving On From Obviously Fake News To Plausibly Fake News Sites

from the did-the-Guardıan-really-write-that? dept

Fake news is old news now. The hope has to be that we have all become slightly more suspicious when we read astonishing stories online (well, we can hope). It also means that those peddling fake news have to work a little bit harder to make us fall for their tricks. Like this:

Fake articles made to look like they have been published by legitimate news websites have emerged as a new avenue for propaganda on the internet, with experts concerned about the increasing sophistication of the latest attempts to spread disinformation. Kremlin supporters are suspected to be behind a collection of fraudulent articles published this year that were mocked up to appear as if they were from al-Jazeera, the Atlantic, Belgian newspaper Le Soir, and the Guardian.

The Guardian report on this new development says that it’s not just a matter of getting the typography and layout right: even the domain names are similar. For example, the fake Guardian site’s URL replaced the usual “i” in Guardian with the Turkish “ı” — a tiny change that is easy to miss, especially when it’s in a URL.

What’s particularly problematic with these fake newspaper sites is that their domain names add an extra level of plausibility that make it more likely the lie will be spread by unsuspecting Internet users. Even when stories are debunked, the online echo of the false information lives on as people re-post secondary material, especially if legitimate sites are fooled and repeat the “news” themselves, lending it a spurious authenticity. Taking down the material can make things worse:

Ren TV, which has a history of producing pro-Kremlin content, did a piece portraying the removal of the article as a deletion by the Guardian of a true article, an angle also taken by an Armenian outlet following the fake Haaretz piece on the Azerbaijani first family.

In other words, deletion might be used as “proof” that powerful forces did not want people to see the “truth”. Even though the original is removed, the rumors and conspiracy theories might actually increase as a result. This latest evolution of fake news shows that we are still nowhere near to tackling the problem. Indeed, it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better — assuming they do.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “Moving On From Obviously Fake News To Plausibly Fake News Sites”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The Joy of Unicode

the entire computing experience is to treat end users like the stupid ignorant idiots they are.

they deserve it. I am tired of everyone feeling sorry for a bunch of people the expect everyone else to expend effort to protect them from their stupidity.

Sorry, if you wish to remain an ignorant idiot you need to stop complaining every time you are taken for a ride.

Browsers from day one should already have been making these security oriented features like the one you mentioned available. They should allow a user to region lock themselves at will, see every website participating in sending them data/ads and data mining them, storing cookies know what each website is using to spy on them with.

But no, all the browser makers have been providing businesses access to your user data while simultaneously acting like they ever gave a fuck about your privacy.

takitus (profile) says:

Re: The Joy of Unicode

A boon and a gift to spammers and scammers and baddies of all description.

And to the very large number of Internet users who do not speak English.

Any character set can be used maliciously (consider similar ASCII characters like ‘1’ and ‘l’). Blaming this kind of spoofing on Unicode and the need to support non-Latin alphabets sounds a lot like linguistic chauvinism.

Richard (profile) says:

What is really new?

OK – so there may be some new techniques for spreading propaganda but the concept of fake news is itself fake news.

Identifying your opponents’ propaganda in this way is useful because it casts doubt over everything they say and helps to reinforce your own fake news.

It’s not an accident that the moment the fake news accusation was levelled at Trump he fired it straight back and made it seem

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a great day for Techdirt!

I would just like to complement Techdirt today on their shift towards being a better publication. For the first time, I have seen two sides of controversial issues presented for more than a few hours, without one side of the argument hidden from viewers (censored). It appears to me that the editorial policy is shifting for the better, and I would like to thank Mike for that. He will soon be receiving a public award for being the editor of Techdirt, and no doubt his editorial policy has been under review by a lot of people. Well, I’ve been reviewing it and documenting it quite extensively, that’s for sure. It will likely be a key issue in his court case, he is the editor, after all, and the one who makes all these decisions. And now I see a change for the better, less censorship. Great move in the right direction, Mike, you have my sincere appreciation. If I could make a request, editor Mike, could you remove the sh*t word in articles, please? In the comment section, to each his own, but I think that would be another great change to remove it from the articles, especially the titles. Thanks again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is a great day for Techdirt!

Two very different things, right? Hiding comments, which Techdirt used to do to hide whole sections of the opinion landscape, and not using sht in articles or article titles. Most people don’t use sht in their public articles, it’s not really a censorship issue, it’s more an issue of basic good taste, isn’t it? Sht doesn’t really add anything legitimate to an argument, except in the rarest of cases. There would be nothing legitimate lost without the sht.

However, there are a lot of legitimate points of view lost with censorship (hiding comments), right?. And, I asked nicely, to the editor that actually makes the decision about these kinds of things. Most traditional media outlets support a “Letter to the editor”, right? Even the failing New York Times doesn’t resort to using sht, right? I don’t read them actually, but you might know. Do they use sht as much as Techdirt does?

Trust me, it’s not really a censorship request, really, it’s not. Everything can be said without resorting to sh*t, except for the most juvenile of minds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is a great day for Techdirt!

Thank you, I am impressed that Mike is opening up his heart and letting others voice their opinion and not censoring them (hiding their voice). Mike, I wonder if your heart is open enough to accept parody. You defend parody in the copyright sense, right? Do you allow parody on your web site? For example, here is a parody of Mike’s acceptance speech at the EFF:

First, you have to imagine how Mike is dressed. I recommend long leather boots, leather pants and a tweed jacket over the top of a black turtleneck. Maybe a riding crop in one hand. The lights go down, the crowd goes quiet, and he begins:

“First, I’d like to thank the body of Techdirt, that wild stallion of a site that I sit astride every day, whipping left and right ceaselessly to enforce my editorial agenda. And by the body of Techdirt, I mean that group of individuals right here, in in center, sitting in their black clothes and covered in black masks. Stand up you guys, Stephen T. Stone, PaulT, and whoever else made it (can’t tell who you are). Thank you for thrashing and bolting through all kinds of issues with your hatred and nonsense. Where would I be without you anonymous and hidden posters who fill Techdirt with sh*t?

“Next, I’d like to thank the head of Techdirt (Techdirt Counter Intelligence) comprised of some of the same people and some that couldn’t make it. They enforce my censorship policy ruthlessly while tracking anonymous posters to make sure this stallion trounces on any ideas that don’t fit my agenda. Thank you guys.

“Next, I’d like to thank the ass of Techdirt, Chip, MyNameHere, Out of the blue and Mr. No Emails Please. There they are, in the balcony, hmm. that’s funny. They all look rich, educated, intelligent, and they’re with really hot chicks with beautiful breasts. Wow. Anyway, you guys helped serve our purpose by willfully taking a whipping and persisting anyway. Thank you for your part.

“Lastly, I’d really like to thank TCM (Traitor Chelsea Manning) for her spiritual advice, thank you, Chelsea. After some Buddhist reflection I see I have been working against my own interests in the most difficult of ways. I’ve been using my balls to make decisions, and where has it gotten me? I never get laid. So, thanks to TCM, goodbye balls, and I expect I’m going to get laid all the time after I switch sides. Chelsea does (wow does she!), and I can too, really, she promised she would introduce me. Thank you everybody, wish me well and call me Michelle.

“Goodnight everyone, I love you. Kiss Kiss”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is a great day for Techdirt!

Hahaha – pretty good one. I like the smell of humor in the morning, it helps me wake up.

Anyways … I am getting tired of the both sides bullshit. Disingenuous arguments have become so obvious and blatant that it is insulting. At least in the past they were a bit more discrete with their back room dealing.

Intentionally glossing over details detrimental to one “side” or the other does not make one a better journalist or more patriotic – it makes one complicit.

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