The anatomy of “fake news”


I found an online news article last week that made me wonder whether I was looking at fake news.  I discovered the article was originally written by Jessica Roy, a journalist at the LA Times, but the article had been altered to remove her name and change her words.  I confirmed with Jessica that her article had been plagiarized:

The article was almost identical. Almost. But if you read it closely, there were some quirks. The phrase “the alt-right” became “the alt-proper.” The magazine “Vanity Fair” became “Vanity Truthful.” The Free Speech Movement became the “Cost-free Speech Motion.” Instead of prompting people to follow me on Twitter, it asked people to “abide by me on Twitter.”

The rabbit hole goes much deeper.  Read all about it here: A fake news site stole my story. The Trump subreddit didn’t notice.

Fake news

What is it an how do you know it when you see it? Let’s ask the following questions about a possibly-fake news article:

  • was the article obviously generated by software?
  • is the content plagiarized?
  • are content sources and authorship redacted?
  • is the article hosted on a freshly-registered anonymous domain?
  • are the other articles on the website irrelevant and disorganized?
  • is there no apparent editorial board. physical office, or business?

If the answer to these questions is “yes” then you probably aren’t looking at real news.  Altogether, these criteria help to identify one type of fake news: bot news.  Last week I uncovered a bot newspaper site and worked with the LA Times to describe it.  This is the link to that article: A fake news site stole my story. The Trump subreddit didn’t notice.

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