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Read this: How conspiracy theories hijacked the news

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How conspiracy theories hijacked the new…



BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 you'll have heard the first US Presidential debate that took place overnight car crash in a dumpster fire a clown show exhausted commentators have quite simply run out of comparisons for what was the most bonkers debate in US history.

I watch these things live so you don't have to and it was the craziness of social media played out in real life so today on the media show weird at how we got hit and in particular.

I want to find out why some conspiracy theories have jumped from the fringes of the internet to the mainstream news agenda.

Let me in a very distinguished guests from both sides of the Atlantic Angie drop Nick Holland is the editor-in-chief of politifact which is a fraction service and she had a very busy last 24-hours.

Absolutely exhausted.

Thank you for your time in joining us.

Just tell us a bit about what politifact is and what your relationship with Facebook is to us base we've been around since 2007 and our mission is to Bath check the politicians what they say and is it accurate or not? We try to make a report of various possible so we have a system we called the truth Omega we rate statements from True to Mostly true half true mostly false now.

We've been out.

We've been around like I said since the start of social media and then when we when we first started we really books still on in recent years.

We've been doing more misinformation and disinformation that we see online spreading virally couple of years ago Facebook approached some of the Vatican

Stations around the world and asked us if you would participate in a program carpaccio information on their side to try to diminish its influence and we agreed to do that contract services contract and what happened to Facebook create a special place on its platform for us to go to it looks like a news feed it's the worst news feed you it's full of misinformation that either user-supplied or Facebook's algorithms have flagged as potentially false news on Anthony newsfeed of documents and put it surprised it's your name is rock you do seem a proud in your Defence of those very unprofessional things that fact it which is why we having your on today show and it's great.

Thank you for your time when you got so much gayline Nancy l.

Rosenblum is also here professor at Harvard University and she's also the co-author of a book called a lot of people are saying the new.

And the assault on democracy says that are kind of subject Nancy I said we're going to be talking about conspiracy theories.

What was your favourite if I can put it like that from from last night because there were a few play the rounds in the hours before that debate between Biden and trump conspiracy claim about the trump has claimed that his own election in 2016 which kinds of the 2018 elections were rigged this time in A&E near me and I think this is going to be a very very consequential claim this isn't stuff.

We just is it impact realise we talk to you more about that in a second and thank you for joining us also with us is Mike Thompson Mike is the chief content director at wosu public Media in a higher higher.

Stayed with last night's debate to apartment Mike you also co-host on NPR podcast called snollygoster and that thrills me because genuinely snollygoster is one of my words.

Are we trying very very hard at making some resistance.

I must tell you to get that word on here for years now.

Just tell us what it means well the definition of snow is a shrewd self-serving politicians redundant.

I know for Dad's the does the word when we're looking for a name for a podcast about 2 years ago.

I don't want to just have a boring name Michael hydro politics or something like that so I add little terms and I was the first thing that popped up the etymology of it was a TED talk about my dad was first used in American publications was a newspaper editor actually from Ohio that use the first in the United States is the 19th century term I know that yeah.

A mythical creature called a snallygaster something similar but it might also come from the German shemale goes to which means that might be conspiracy theory itself might great to have you with us here with me is BBC's Marianna spring who's the reporter who I'm afraid so Marion does live down the Rabbit Hole of disinformation.

Did you say up to watch the Debate life? I had to get up incredibly early to talk or Labour and information and social media conversation that came out of it.

You haven't to check during the Debate what you're doing to say it was just a brawling Circus like atmosphere in the day.

It's hard to understand because Donald Trump interrupted so often and talked over democratic nominee Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace

Started thinking it back to trump so a lot of talking over each other a lot insults throne and accusations made things that we've been hearing in US politics over the past few months.

We were her Donald Trump make the unsupported claims about election rigging.

We've heard him make unsupported crimes.

What is done for Americans and their health care system and then he made some attacks on Joe by the way.

I don't want to say there was nothing there there.

There are some troubling aspects of the work that Joe biden's son die or in the Ukraine and created a conflict of interest but there's been no credit applications of misbehavior on the Bible is the Canada and that's about his surviving son Hunter Biden it's not about Bogart and who his son who sadly died former Army officer.

The word for particularly interesting to say conspiracies that was circulating.

I just want to touch with you.

There's one was that Joe Biden had a son of invisible earpiece which should be using to get secret information another that he had implanted in his head and is also some stuff knocking around wasn't there and you about whether or not he had kept his team and asked if you could have a few brakes toilet breaks the implication being that is not physically what you might be 77 years old bank the claim that is in previous debate but the funny thing about this year.

Is it we see conspiracy theories every election cycle but this year the Donald Trump campaign in the Kidderminster promoting them and that's the line that I think has been crossed this year is that we've gone from French things on the internet maybe see.

You down to the campaigns putting them forward as the actual absolutely couple of hours number of adverts on Facebook which promote both the unfunded conspiracy theory about the earpiece and about the toilet breaks as well, but he came to political problems as well pushing a conspiracy theory about where President Obama was born and Angela mention you won a Pulitzer that was for your teams remarkable work at the 2008 election feel free distant era.

Is it 12 years since broadly speaking? How has the type of claims you been checking has it changed? Is it the volume? Is it a mainstream Media what's changed about this information that type?

What I think it's certainly the volume, but it's also being this creep from the fringes into the mainstream, so we were very much checking conspiracy theories like a Barack Obama was born he was born in the United States that conspiracy theories that you was born in Kenya but the internet is now part of the mainstream.

Then we get the social media the reality of social media has that things so it's a very complex dynamical is a lot of different moving.

Please stop this problem of misinformation is not an easy problem to solve.

It has many Dynamics it permeates different parts of society, so it's not something that I think there's a quick fix it could say oh well just start believing all the facts will be fine and Punishment was sanctioned if you do remote control series.

Rosenblum from Harvard University will get into the fascinating argument of your book a lot of people are saying shortly just before we do that.

I was waiting for Angie website and there's loads of claims that she had to check from a group called Q anon.

Could you just tell us a bit about what Q anon is.

It is a group the online that are on with the name of President Trump was actually in Alliance with rabbits in person investigating him that they were looking at paedophile Rings kinds of sins and distortions that they were looking at a Leeds and they were planning to gether in Boulogne trump and John F Kennedy Jr who have returns and the dead were going to create a storm that is an apocalypse apocalyptic moment we're all of these people would be.

Swift in the world will be born a new one of the new conspiracies and because there's no it means to be explained.

I mean typically conspiracy.

Theory is an attempt to explain something that happened going to say that things are not what they seem to hasn't trumpism please acknowledge.

It's existence and said he appreciated the support you know do you know where the name q and on itself comes from? What's the origin of the word thing was started by clothes that were posted by somebody who calls himself q and he was and remains anonymous.

That is people don't know whether there is a q a single person, but since that time many people have gotten into this game of Q&A and I think that what's important about it and makes a distinctive.

Explain the back of the public then.

I just online this isn't some secretive kebab this isn't you know this is these people who are now what we call Evers and their beat believes in public that they open the wheeltappers people yes some sort of collective action and does not work doesn't there are principles that is people who post more often and he take the lead and some sort of things but it is a social media kind of network is a network.

It's not an organisation of any kind of the question really for us in the United States is.

What is this an incipient political movement that is capable of organising and acting out collectively and if so does it have a politics and what politics people tuning in with you and on which is a group online which is Nancy rosenblum explains his is now very much at meeting in real life.

I should say that it's one of its core beliefs of the notion President Trump is conducting a secret war against the global network of paedophiles and I read a recent survey Nancy by the polling companies Civics for a left-leaning you say that claim one in three Republic believe Q anon to be in a quote mostly true can be the case if you give us ask you a question from the other side of the Atlantic but that seems rather let me say that this question of who believes in East conspiracy accounts evening is misplaced because it's not.

Whether they believe the truth of the facts of these things it's whether they think there's a deeper tree to going on is there a deeper truth.

There is an evil that we can imagine that they have a sex trafficking ring and things and participation in these things is the time in identification with a political way A Tribe or a group and they believe is not in the sex of the map we saw that with pizzagate the belief is in the deeper truths of their hostilities and animus and they're looking for some apocalyptic change in the UK

Wosu public Media hi mate, your programming programming the news coverage of a public radio station in a higher and acid journalist and how do you treat things like you annoying if they really are people who sincerely believe it's claims to be true because we want we want to present what's true? And what's not but by giving groups like any conspiracy theory air time or space on our website or in our social media channels to find a message by The Fall so yes, we can say that this is what the screw saying we can say that again saying that photo Fridays redbit next sentence said no evidence shows that it's a minuscule problem compared to the number of votes cast by you still saying someone is saying go to Friday's wrap it so we just have to do our best of always fact-checking and be careful of how we present them in a tough spot.

We don't want a present these wacky conspiracy theories but we also don't want them to go on answer but lots of people leave things too which there is no evidence and yes my argue that religious face falls into this category.

We don't generally seek to defend Believers will be holding a different religious place that sells how do you call out conspiracy theories supported indoors without using offending people or is that just the price of property owners in layout watch True and complaints community answer them, but you can't worry about offending somebody who believes that Donald Trump is waging War on a secret network of pet smells by saying that there's no evidence of that and all that offend somebody too bad.

So just reclaimer you you until you issue Public Radio you call the stuff out of nonsense.

Would you say this is playing wrong?

Whatever I mean to do it because it's not enough we have to use terms like there's no evidence of that or when do you say that someone is lying exactly which is not telling the truth before I bring that Nancy and Angie back in to be really clear that something q anon.

Is is part of life in Britain in the Marian a lot of people sitting at home spending a lot of time on Facebook Instagram other social media sites and the nature of the internet is that if something starts going really viral and becoming really popular in.

It's very easy for it to cross the ocean and find us here in the UK and in recent weeks of protests held around the UK which are based around his #forchildren or Save the Children and it's important to explain where that come from so there was a Crackdown on human on over the summer BBC research showed that Corona generated over 100 million interaction social media this year and it's that for the social media companies to do something which was to remove a number of groups pages and to block a number of hashtags associated with the as a consequence those hardcore supporters rebranded and I started using this new #save our children or Save the Children which in many ways is very very clever because it's much more palatable and much more accessible than the traditional hashtags of things like where we go one we go all of them.

Rallies where people are promoting human on conspiracy theories which are based around this save our children movement what they believe is fundamentally.

What is at the base of Kieran on that elites running child child trafficking Rings at least here in the UK as well as in the US and that something needs to be done about it and the difficult thing is that this #save our children has attracted a lot of people who just as most of us would be are repulsed by the idea of child abuse or child trafficking and as a consequence they've fallen down the rabbit hole and pattern in a way that if they seen each other and on hashtags.

They might not have I think it's really important to try and show these people when we're coming this that this is part of a political disinformation the issue of child trafficking is a terrible one which I think we all agree is disgusting and we don't want to exist but these conspiracy theories use this trip as a way of attacking off.

It's because it's incredibly effective.

It's the peak of moral depravity appreciate it.

You don't know much about it.

Really appreciated the support of this group is a question of how soon and how exactly they come to influence political life in Britain to go to the central point of one of which is the difference in you alluded to it won't go between some older conspiracies which seats are constructed reality and newer conspiracies which are very different things can't explain what you mean when you say conspiracies without Theory predominated a conspiracy theory is and I'm sure your listeners.

No conspiracy theories theories and explanation.

What makes it a conspiracy theories.

It says that the explanation is a Kabbalah working in secret to take over power and somewhere and x

Patterns in the parents evil intent and sometimes a conspiracy theories true and sometimes it's false and conspiracy theories something on what we seeing unless for 5-years is something new I believe and that is the connection between conspiracy theory and Siri we now have conspiracy claims that are bare assertion without evidence dispensing with argument.

No darts.

No patterns.

Just fear aggressive assertion is ripped a shake news on the murder investigation is a hugs and so on and very important that these are not a surgeons.

I said I said maybe your Media people here will agree or disagree that one of the reasons why social.

Husband so important here beside the fact that you can networking it's customers an instant and someone and so far is that the validation of these conspiracy claims the elections rigged? Is is repetition of evidence which is how many people are saying you can't communicate election is really good into 140 characters conspiracy petunias something very complicated and hard and you can be the same effects both left and right of course Richard Hofstadter is famous in canonical book the Paranoid style in American politics that 9064 just after goldwater beat Rockefeller to Republican nomination lots of your compared to go to bed as you say this isn't just something that is a preserve the nationalist write it spreads right across the political spectrum.

I would have been this right back to the indications for news journalism and then those unfashionable creatures we mention the top of the

Tracts which is what you Angie dropping it holding from traffic in and it if we have now reached the point when there are very few facts that it's worth checking but the questions we what's the point of fracture in when is Nancy and Marianne and Mike Michael make clear if you pump out miss information.

It doesn't seem to cost you very much.

That is the critical question that we're having to deal with in the United States right now and selection and yeah, I would argue the facts remain very important when it comes to when it comes to policy decisions and it will really seem that with the coronavirus and I got some of them out last night when they were talking about the coronavirus and present and have a lot of answers for why is previous assertions that the virus will go away of work turned out to be wrong and so I do think facts do matter.

They just seem to be getting lost in this cacophony of Nowhere by traditional leaders.

We might call it Mike and there's another kind of Conspiracy to go and Fraser going on which is the conspiracy.

Lucy theories and a cable news networks both right and left leaning to have a financial incentive, don't they might to put this stuff on it mean they have to create contact iran24 day 7-days a week.

They're extremely competitive and small drop and ratings can be you know millions of Dollars so they have to have always something feeding the beast to call it something you always have to have something to talk about and that's where these conspiracy theories give them something to talk about now the bank.

They say it's wrong they say it's you know it's crazy.

They're talking about them.

I think we have to be able to say talk about other things besides weather not Joe Biden your PC didn't have any repeats you know before but just mentioning it you're giving it some degree of credibility.

I wish we could get back to what we try to do in public medias is ignore that stuff we have to mention it say it.

If we can try to stick to the issues the facts keep it civil and Canon nonsense station electric differentiates us from the cable news networks afternoon at the the two most shared Facebook posts by national and local Media outlet in the 24-hours before the Debate one was a misleading breitbart story about by the toilet breaks in the other was the Fox news story amplifying the claims about earpieces.

Do you ever worry that politifact is lending hand of legitimacy and credibility to Facebook through it services when actually it's a problem.

I think Facebook is working to improve the situation so on Facebook I think the burn even harder so I don't worry about that point.

I would say I don't want to go back to the cable television a lot of the cable covering.

Just for the sake of covering them more often there reacting to things that President Trump is said or done in public events and that's where it turns into this very complicated situation because if the president is saying something like the position will so much power.

How is a journalist not in some way, it's not true story of trump says it right.

It's ok.

Very quickly and left.

I'm going to be outrageous and say in a minute Nancy rose of them.

How do you fix this? I think we cannot overestimate how everything it's been described here comes from the fact that you have a president with the compromise sense of reality and the capacity do in Positano ok Mariana in an impartial way give us the BBC take that she's going completely.

How do you think as a journalist we go about fixing this? What's the media fix it? I think we still focus on facts but not just

We tried investigate why people believe these things and understand how they ended up down his rabbit holes we hold social media sites accountable for a failure to practically moderate and we also governments accountable for the disinformation they spread and a failure to regulate these platforms at the moment with people on the wrong side of the anti-drug Nichola who's the editor-in-chief of politifact at professor Nancy l.

Rosenblum.

Co-author of a lot of people are saying the new conspiracism and the assault on democracy Mike Thompson is Chief content director wosu in a higher and Marianna spring BBC reporter and thank you for listening at the same time next.


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