Fabricating fake news used to be an art – just ask master craftsmen like Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. But nowadays, it seems like just about anybody can do it. All you need is a computer, your imagination, and a few sociopathic personality traits.
But how does fake news actually get made? BuzzFeed (itself a well-known publisher of questionable claims) has uncovered an interesting example illustrating one of the many ways the fake news sausage is extruded. The process is fairly simple: Just publish totally unsubstantiated rumors that you heard from some guy.
Markus Muir, a 27-year-old Scottish man, decided to see just how stringent the editorial standards are at Infowars, the site founded by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He was most recently in the news for claiming that Barack Obama and Hillary Clintons are literally demons from hell, according to unnamed people who have met them.
To put Infowars’ editorial process to the test, Muir sent messages to an Infowars editor on Twitter, claiming to be an employee of NBC with information that BuzzFeed and CNN were about to release leaked footage of Trump saying the “n-word” on old outtakes from his reality TV show "The Apprentice." It was a last-minute hatchet job to discredit him on the eve of his inauguration.
The editor than published the claims on Infowars.
No really, that’s it.
The editor never did due diligence. He never troubled Muir for confirmation that he really works for NBC (he doesn’t); that he had actually seen such a video (he hadn’t); or that BuzzFeed and CNN had access to the video and were really going to release it (they didn’t and weren’t). The editor simply took statements sent to him by a random stranger on Twitter and presented them as fact.
The Infowars article is still up and at the time of writing had been shared around 16,000 times on Facebook.And that’s how fake news is made!