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article imageOp-Ed: Fighting fake news? Not too well yet, but it can be done

By Paul Wallis     Dec 9, 2016 in Internet
Sydney - Fake news is now, belatedly, under attack. There are still no lawsuits. One bit of case law could bury fake news, and the vermin who make it.
Like the Gawker case about Hulk Hogan, the bars can be raised to the point fake news just isn't worth publishing.
Fake news is a form of mental terrorism. It’s propaganda, intended to do actual harm. The not-very new cash cow, fake news, derived from tabloid news, (thanks, jerks) remains a source of revenue for the insects that produce it.
If you check out the current torrent of responses to fake news from around the world, a slow but noticeable response is happening. Not much, however, has happened in solid form.
That’s pretty normal, and it’s a norm that has to change. It annoys me intensely to say that liberal/progressives seem to take forever to hit back, rather than bleating about actual personal abuse. There was nothing new about 2016, except the scale. Exactly the same thing happened in 2008 and 2012. Everyone should have expected it.
Let’s clarify:
1. Fake news isn’t “Freedom of speech” in any form. When you refer to another person, it becomes civil law. It’s exactly the same thing as fraud, defamation, libel, etc. When you accuse someone of something, you’re liable.
2. Fake news is anti-democracy. The right to know isn’t negotiable.
3. Fake news has included a lot of invasion of privacy, like disclosing private information about addresses, etc. That’s a few million, if you’ve got a pro bono lawyer.
4. Fake news often relates to socially or personally intrusive behavior causing stress. Stress is a legitimate claim for damages.
5. An action which causes any form of injury is a legally accountable action. It applies to anyone, and any case is within a court’s power to address.
If there was ever a collection of scum who deserved to be wiped off the face of the Earth, the fake news breeders are top of the list. The best way to do this is with targeted lawsuits.
A few suggestions:
The different categories of fake news are:
Releasing personal information of any kind, and/or causing financial, medical, or other distress to the affected party: Damages in this form of lawsuit can be very high.
Allegations of any form of criminal activity: This can be sued as defamation for very large amounts of money.
Note the continual references to money. Fake news is really driven by money, not ideology. Pick a subject. Have two sides to the story – Fake news will target whoever it’s paid to target. There’s no loyalty in this, just cash. Take away the cash, make the risk more expensive than the rewards, you’ll be out of fake news in about 5 minutes.
Social media, the likely target for any lawsuits as enablers of damaging non-news, is working on solutions. Facebook is currently testing antidotes. This could well be a Big Data bit of tech, given the volumes. On the other hand, all fake news is scripted. The writing styles, expressions, and other mechanics of fake news are pretty much standardised.
Why do real writers write fake news?
If you’re a “real” writer, someone who does it for a living, you have a few obligations, both to your readers and yourself. One of the obligations to your readers is to write something which has value. Fake news has entirely negative values.
An obligation to yourself, if you still exist after delivering all this crap, is to have some credibility. Fake news is the easy way to destroy your own credibility, even with yourself. You can make all the excuses you like; you know it’s crap. It’s also crap with your name on it. Want a job? Don’t write fake news. Part of your credibility as a writer is whether you’re trustworthy. Publishers, like readers, can do without untrustworthy writers.
I’ve been wondering what I’d do if someone asked me to write fake news. I now have an answer: I’ll rip the bone marrow out of your worthless hides and your great-grand-toilet paper. Even you trash might eventually figure out why.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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