Ge­orge Mathis News to Me Fake news trav­els fastest

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - COUNTY BY COUNTY -

News has al­ways trav­eled fast. Thanks to so­cial me­dia, it’s never moved faster.

But speed, as my in­sur­ance ad­juster will tell you, causes ac­ci­dents.

It’s true be­hind the wheel and, I’m sad to re­port, a key­board. With ev­ery­one in such a hurry to get the news out right now, it’s some­times not right.

Last week, ma­jor news or­ga­ni­za­tions re­ported Tom Petty’s death be­fore he died.

This week, lo­cal news or­ga­ni­za­tions re­ported At­lanta Mayor Kasim Reed ve­toed a city ordi

nance de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing pos­ses­sion of less than an ounce of mar­i­juana.

Only the mayor hadn’t. Re­porters saw a tweet on an of­fi­cial At­lanta City Coun­cil ac­count say­ing Reed had ve­toed the mea­sure and quickly wrote about it. The er­ro­neous tweet was cor­rected and, soon there­after, the news sto­ries were fixed too.

Mayor Reed says the it was a “stunt” by a po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent. Maybe.

But there’s likely no con­spir­acy in this sce­nario. I don’t think it was “fake news.”

As some­one who helped run the AJC’s first Twit­ter ac­count, I can con­firm hon­est mis­takes hap­pen. Though, I’d like to go on the record and say my ini­tial re­port of a ze­bra run­ning loose in down­town At­lanta was later con­firmed.

Usu­ally, mis­takes are not ne­far­i­ous.

Zoo At­lanta once sug­gested a miss­ing rat­tlesnake was still in

one of its build­ings. Two days later an At­lantan clubbed it to death on his Grant Park porch.

Pres­i­dent Trump once tweeted “Covfefe.” Twit­ter his­to­ri­ans are still try­ing to fig­ure that one out.

Some­times, the “mis­take” is the re­sult of trou­ble­mak­ers.

In 2013, hack­ers took con­trol of the Associated Press Twit­ter ac­count and wrote about ex­plo­sions at the White House. The tweet was cor­rected, but not be­fore the stock mar­ket briefly dipped.

More and more of­ten, so­cial me­dia is used to dis­sem­i­nate fake news whose only pur­pose is to ma­nip­u­late the gullible.

Rus­sia is ac­cused of not only cre­at­ing fake news to af­fect U.S. elec­tions, but also cre­at­ing fake Twit­ter and Face­book ac­counts.

The big­gest dis­trib­u­tors of mis­in­for­ma­tion may be peo­ple you know best: Friends who share ar­ti­cles from web­sites one step re­moved from the satire of “The Onion” and think, or hope, they are true.

I’ve got a friend who thinks every ma­jor news event is a gov­ern­ment cover-up and the “main­stream me­dia” is help­ing hide the truth.

An­other posts things he knows aren’t true just to “rile peo­ple up.”

Real news trav­els fast. Fake news can travel even faster.

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