There has been a lot of talk about fake news since the United States President-elect Trump was helped, in part, to victory by an unchecked spread of fake news and articles.
Fake news is often shared with an agenda, either to make easy profit or with propaganda in mind but even the profiteers and propagandists that have made fake news a real problem have next to nothing on President-elect Donald Trump.
On Sunday, the President-elect who obviously still retains a soft spot for Twitter made an extraordinary claim. He tweeted;
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
His statement was backed up by no evidence whatsoever but suggests that Hillary Clinton’s lead of over 2 million popular votes nationwide, which has no effect on the final outcome in the Electoral College which Trump won, was somehow ill-gotten.
The tweet could be simply passed off as another idiosyncratic view of the President-elect but an analysis of how he came about the unfounded claim is very relevant to discussions on the spread of fake news.
President-elect Trump did not make up the idea that illegal voters put Hillary Clinton over the top in popular votes. That claim appears to have streamed from Gregg Phillips, who identifies himself online as a resident of Austin, Texas, and the founder of an app for reporting voter fraud.
A few days after the election, he tweeted that more than 3 million people had voted illegally, citing an analysis that he is yet to release;
We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.
— Gregg Phillips (@JumpVote) November 13, 2016
Soon enough, the tweets were picked up by InfoWars, a website that regularly peddles fake news, under the heading; “Report: Three Million Votes in Presidential Election Cast by Illegal Aliens; Trump may have won popular vote.” That article has been shared on Facebook more than 50,000 times.
Not minding several other outlets that fact-checked the story and found it false, the story continued to spread among Trump supporters online. The story was put under headlines like; “Illegal Immigrants Cast a Ridiculous Number of Votes” and “Without Illegal Vote Tally Trump Would Have Won Popular Vote in a Landslide – Get Over It Snowflakes.” and most of these articles cited the InfoWars article.
Then on Sunday, President-elect Trump tweeted the voter-fraud claim without citing any source. Gregg Phillips the supposed originator of the claim quickly retweeted Donald Trump’s stamp of his original claims.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
President-elect Trump has defended false statements made in the past by declaring “All I know is what’s on the internet.” and that may actually be one of his more accurate statements.
The soon to be President of the United States may, however, want to remember that just because it is on the internet does not mean that it is correct.