When it comes to fake internet news, 'buyer beware'


The old saying is: "Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear."

After the 2016 presidential election, many are pointing to that adage, blaming the pervasiveness of fake news posts for the outcome of the race.

At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Barack Obama addressed the issue of realistic looking fake news.

"If we can't discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems," he said.

President-elect Donald Trump (R) has not been immune to retweeting fake news posts.

“There’s really no way, with the advancement of graphics and technology, that you can tell what’s real and true and what isn’t," David Rehr, law professor and political analyst at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Virginia, said.

But when it comes to charges that fake news may be to blame for Trump's victory against Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) in the presidential race, Rehr doesn't buy it.

"You might have had a few people read a crazy or zany website and go, I can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or I can’t vote for Donald Trump for some zany reason," Rehr said. "But I think most people in America are rational.”

In fact, misinformation didn't suddenly arise with the advent of the internet and social media. It's been a part of the presidential campaigns dating back to the 1800s.

"If we go back to the presidential election of Andrew Jackson in the middle of the [1800s], the newspapers at the time, alleged that his wife was whore, that he was an adulterer.”

Experts like Rehr also believe that fake news, even though it is misleading, is a part of free speech and that it shouldn't be limited by government.

When it comes to discerning what's real and what's not on the internet, ultimately it may be up to the user, which Rehr points back to another old saying, "I think with some of these websites, we have to remember the old adage that’s used for consumer products: Let the buyer beware."

Both Facebook and Google have announced plans to block revenue to fake and misleading posts to their advertising platforms.

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