Attorney shares strategies to find fake news

Robin Luce-Herrmann educated the audience on some of the ways to spot fake news. (Photo by Vanessa Ray)

No, Pope Francis did not endorse Donald Trump. 

Hillary Clinton did not sell guns to Isis.

There was no shark swimming along the road in a Hurricane Harvey ravaged Hous-ton.

Those are just a few examples of the types of “fake news” that have proliferated via so-cial media since the 2016 election cycle.

In an era of fake news, what to look for and how to identify it (and what to say to family friends who share it) has become, for many, an essential skill.

On Wednesday Sept. 20, MCCC attempt-ed to broach the subject by hosting “Fake News and the Constitution” in the Meyer Theater.

The event was organized by History professor Edmund La Clair and held in recogni-tion of Constitution Day.

Attorney and First Amendment expert Robin Luce-Herrmann, who entitled her ad-dress “The Freedom of the Press in the Current Political Environment,” spoke on the importance of the First Amendment and the media during the age of “fake news.”

Luce-Herrmann began by defining fake news. 

Though President Trump routinely decries any negative press about him as “fake news,” that was not the topic Luce-Herrmann would be addressing – though the importance of a free press was highlighted throughout the entire evening.

“Fake news is a type of yellow journalism, or clickbait, which seeks to spread hoaxes and erroneous information,” Luce-Herr-mann said. “It’s also been around for centuries.”

Though it is most often associated with political propaganda, fake news is not ex-clusive to politics, as seen by the popularity of the story of a lottery winner supposedly defecating on her boss’ desk.

As amusing as some stories may be, fake news can have real-life consequences.

Though it will always be debatable, there are many who believe it had a profound effect on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

This is not to say it’s only conservatives who are writing fake news stories. 

“Fake news is by no means partisan,” Luce-Herrmann said.

She then showcased a number of fake news propaganda stories that spanned the political spectrum.

After speaking for about 45 minutes, Luce-Herrmann accepted questions from the audience of about 100, which included students, faculty, and members of the community.


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c.parentNode.insertBefore(cp, c); })(); Constitution Day – Fake news, the Media, and the First AmendmentRobin Luce-Herrmann Herrmann, who titled her address “The Freedom of the Press in the Current Political Environment,” spoke on the importance of the First Amendment and the media during the age of “fake news.”focallength 101flash 16cameramake Canonheight 6000fnumber 7.1exposuretime 0.005orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 9/20/2017 10:51:35 PMwidth 9000cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6sU.S. ConstitutionCopies of the Constitution were handed out to everyone in attendance.focallength 35flash 16cameramake Canonheight 3292fnumber 5.6exposuretime 0.05orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 9/20/2017 10:32:21 PMwidth 5748cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6sNicole Wilson"What do we do about family members who share fake news on Facebook," Wilson said. "I want to call them out and tell them it’s wrong, but they’re family."focallength 85flash 16cameramake Canonheight 4976fnumber 5.6exposuretime 0.05orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 9/20/2017 11:08:01 PMwidth 3888cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6sMatthew Nelson and Jacob TreeceMiddle College student’s Nelson and Treece both thought fake news was a serious problem.focallength 135flash 16cameramake Canonheight 4000fnumber 5.6exposuretime 0.05orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 9/20/2017 11:20:28 PMwidth 5136cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6sThe First Amendment45 words, five important rights.cameramake Canonfocallength 20height 4000fnumber 4.5exposuretime 0.01orientation 1flash 16originaldate 9/20/2017 10:56:16 PMwidth 6000cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6sRobin West-SmithWest-Smith asked about the First Amendment rights of gay couples to sue for discrimination when they are denied service.cameramake Canonfocallength 89height 4000fnumber 5.6exposuretime 0.06666667orientation 1flash 16originaldate 9/20/2017 11:01:30 PMwidth 6000cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6sRobin Luce-HerrmannProvides examples of fake news. Fake news is not a partisan issue. Both Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between and beyond is guilty of peddling fake news.focallength 20flash 16cameramake Canonheight 3256fnumber 11exposuretime 0.07692308orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 9/20/2017 10:37:32 PMwidth 5748cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6sAustin Peters"I feel like we’ve gotten to the point where we’re banning speech on campus," Peters said. "I don’t like hate speech, but I also don’t think any speech should be silenced."focallength 135flash 16cameramake Canonheight 3052fnumber 5.6exposuretime 0.06666667orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 9/20/2017 11:23:14 PMwidth 4332cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6sThe final slide of the evening"The only security of all is in a free press."cameramake Canonfocallength 50height 4000fnumber 5exposuretime 0.008orientation 1flash 16originaldate 9/20/2017 11:00:32 PMwidth 6000cameramodel Canon EOS Rebel T6s

MCCC student Nicole Wilson questioned why people fall for fake news.

“For starters, it’s because of confirmation bias. We want to read things that confirm what we already think is true,” Luce-Herr-mann  answered. 

She said the combination of confirmation bias paired with a plausible story is why fake news has spread like wildfire.

Student asked about the protests at col-leges like University of California Berkeley and whether we as a country have become too politically correct.

“We have a huge problem in this country where we’re just way too PC,” Luce-Herrmann said. 

La Clair had a suggestion for students who do not feel comfortable with people who make racist attacks. 

“Most young college students don’t necessarily have the context on how you confront that kind of speech,” La Clair said. 

He gave the example of Nazis being invited to speak at universities after World War II.

“They were put into a debate against the college professors, who ripped these people apart; exposed the faults in their arguments, the lack of evidence for their ideas,” La Clair said. “And, ironically enough, the Nazi’s stopped coming to talk.”

La Clair said this same idea should be put into use today.

By banning certain kinds of speech, those who want to end hate speech are actually amplifying it.

“The thing about free speech is, we work on this marketplace of ideas, and good ideas rise to the top,” La Clair said. “But if you shout down bad ideas, you don’t get the op-portunity to demonstrate the faults.”