There Aren’t Sharks in Caddo Lake, and Other Fake Shreveport News
This weekend was pretty amazing on my social media feed, for all of the wrong reasons.
The term "fake news" exists for a reason, in fact there are a few Congressional Investigations involving the concept right now. But the term has also been muddied recently by a misappropriation of the phrase.
There is a real market for "fake news", click farms, ad hustles, and influencing across all social media platforms. Where the producers of websites are trying to generate thousands of clicks with totally false "cookie cutter" stories where a celebrity in a simple situation is used, and the name of the area changes out to generate clicks in a region. Think about when the internet told you Taylor Swift was buying a home on Cross Lake. Or when Samuel L. Jackson was moving to Bossier City?
These sites are often URLs (website addresses) that look close enough to a real site to fool people, and will generally appear to be a real site...until you start clicking around. You'll find a lot of empty links, or ads that look like stories that will take you to new, more vicious sites. These sites are often just trying to get you to click, so they can go show major advertisers (like Google, who then sells that space to others) that they have so many people looking at the ads on their content.
The other version of this is to spread misinformation to influence opinions without repercussion.
I got social feeds full of both this weekend.
First, there's a story being shared around titled "Fresh Water Sharks in Caddo Lake!" from a fake site called "Channel 45 News". This story isn't even trying. The main person in the story is named 'Ima Lion' and there's essentially no content. The site that created this one is a "prank" site designed to goof your friends. But the unfortunate part of social media is that "pranks" quickly turn into viral stories because people don't actually read things. I'm not even sure who started this one now, because I've seen it shared and reposted dozens of times.
One of the other blow-ups I saw this weekend involved the story of "bodies in barrels" found on a former Presidential Candidate's property.
This story traces back to an urban legend that was often floated last year during the Presidential campaign. It resurfaced last week when a satire website took all of the elements of the urban legend, and put them together in an official looking post.
But the post included a huge disclaimer:
"We believe that there is nothing more precious than the mind of an aging conservative. Here we gather a boatload of bullhonkey, works of pure satirical fiction, to give the fist-shakers of the world a reason to hate. Reality is often in the eye of the beholder. You won’t find any of it here."
So how does a post that includes that disclaimer, get pushed around on social media with authority? I mean, I saw someone who posted it get blasted for it, and have people inside the ever-expanding comment thread defend the story. Their defense was hard, cutting, and completely void of facts. We're talking about people who feigned comprehension in their defense who hadn't even clicked the post to read it. Once those people finally understood what was happening, they of course apologized and retracted their attacks...actually they didn't, they shifted the blame to the targets of the "fake news" for being so icky in their minds that it makes this seem realistic to them.
So it wasn't their fault they couldn't be bothered to actually read and understand something before commenting on it?
Shreveport and Bossier have enough issues to deal with that we don't need to create our own. There are people screaming that Shreveport has a shooting problem, which is true. But instead of working on it, we're creating a second shooting issue, of metaphorically shooting ourselves in the foot.