A study showing that both middle and high schoolers, and adults, have a hard time differentiating real, fake and misleading news is troubling as a History teacher.
The main panelist shown believes that 3 million illegal people voted illegally in California (“because they allow it”) and that President Obama said that they could (two other panelists nod their head with this statement. This is not a true statement, but I wanted to dig into this. They panelists said they saw it on CNN, Facebook and to “google it.”
So… let’s do this and see the time and difficulty in gleaning the facts to this story. Part 1: 3 Million Illegals voted in California. Part 2: Obama allowed illegals to vote.
I start with the claim of 3 million illegally voting in California and “googling” it… and immediately we have an issue. Google search is not pure, as it looks at your own browsing patterns to tailor a search.
That’s one issue to address in finding facts and truth in today’s climate. Google is a good friend, you know… the one who knows you pretty well and is not going to tell you things that you don’t want to hear. Consider these results on Google (left) and Bing (right). That’s a blog entry all on its own.
I start with Google… and “Pants on Fire” article with Politifact California, which claims the “3 million illegal voters” originated on Twitter. Politifact is known as a major media attempt to prove political claims as true. It is not universally accepted as “fact” across the political spectrum. George Mason University posted a study that shows that Republicans get caught in political lies more often than Democrats and immediately the Right cried that, yes, politifact is liberal! There should be an even split! But it underscores a separate problem we have in that we hunker down in our tribes and disbelieve that which contradicts our self image.
Regardless of the view of Politifact, use it as a starting point for it provides plenty of verifiable information for you to make your own conclusion. On the 3 million illegals voting:
Trump may be drawing on an unsupported claim that 3 million “illegal aliens” cast votes in this year’s election. That allegation was made on Twitter by Gregg Phillips, who has worked for the Republican Party and has a voter fraud reporting app. – Politifact California
I followed a link to another Politifact article on the Tweet qouted. Here we quickly see that Phillip’s claim was very quickly picked up by infowars.com, Milo, TheNewAmerican and FreedomDaily, sources well known as fake/misleading news on the far right side of the spectrum that many Conservatives loath. Here’s Phillips original tweet:
So… what has Gregg Phillips said since then? Back to Google. Surely a claim so bold would have more information? Nope. Google and Bing provide no further information from Mr. Phillips as to his claim. So what of his Twitter account. Did he engage in replies with those who commented on his tweet? Were there further tweets on this? His replies simply repeat what he has said, without giving credence to how this was determined. Politifact found his LinkedIn bio which shows him a state and national GOP player.
So we know where the claim began, but what of its truth? The original Politifact story contacted the source of voting in California, the state’s Secretary of State, who said:
“His allegations are completely unfounded,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in an interview. “I think it’s a big disservice to our country and to our democracy to continue to raise these doubts. If anything, a message back to Mr. Trump is, if you have proof, if you have evidence, please bring it forward. Procedures are in place to investigate any real voter fraud. But as the evidence has shown, the cases of voter fraud across the country are statistically minimal if you go back decades.” – Politifact California
So how did this become a believable thing with Trump supporters? Clearly the far-right echo chamber of fake/misleading news shared this story. But what of CNN and Facebook?
Digging around Facebook, this YouTube video popped up (screen cap below, not a link) and you can see it immediately sources this from Infowars.
The author, Barron Hanson “reported” this for Let Me Get This Right on YouTube. What is this organization? It’s just Barron Hanson creating YouTube videos and linking to his website that featured this story, showing how easy it is for a guy in his living room on a computer claiming to be a “news” organization:
Digging into his about section of his website? It’s just a guy with a point of view. Buty “a guy with a point of view” still garnered 9,000 hits on his home spun You Tube video on these 3 million illegals voting.
But the next rabbit hole to go down is True The Vote, which carried “.org” in the title and claims to be a non-partisan group aimed at combating voter fraud. Like Politifact, it is not universally approved as non-partisan, with some on the left claiming it has Tea Party ties. According the screen capture above, True the Vote “confirmed” millions of illegal votes. But True The Vote released this statement:
“…We are still collecting data and will be for several months, but our intent is to publish a comprehensive study on the significant impact of illegal voting in all of its many forms…”
Hardly confirmation. So even if you believe True the Vote to be right-leaning, they are not putting numbers on claims of illegals voting at this point in time. But you can see where this misinformation, from one unsupported Tweet, cycled around the far-right echo chamber with misleading and false associations and made its way to Facebook.