Even before Election Day, 2016, observers of technology & journalism were delivering warnings about the spread of fake news. Headlines like “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump For President” and “Donald Trump Protestor Speaks Out, Was Paid $3500 To Protest” would pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, and spread like wildfire.
Both of those headlines, and hundreds more like them, racked up millions of views and shares on social networks, gaining enough traction to earn mentions in the mainstream press. Fact checkers only had to dig one layer deeper to find that the original publishers of these stories were entirely fake, clickbait news sites, making up false sources, quotes, and images, often impersonating legitimate news outlets, like ABC, and taking home thousands of dollars a month in ad revenue. But by that time, the damage of fake news was done - the story of the $3500 protestor already calcified in the minds of the casual news observer as fact.
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