You know how you’ve always been warned about being careful when something seems too good to be true? That’s never more the case than when you see a story online and say to yourself, “YES! This is exactly how I thought it would be…”
Take for example the following story from the Seattle Tribune:
BREAKING: Trump’s Android Device Believed To Be Source Of Recent White House Leaks
If you’ve recently seen the hashtag – #DitchTheDevice trending on social media, it’s because, according to several private intelligence reports, the source of the multiple recent leaks within the White House is President Trump’s unsecured Android device.
Throughout the past several weeks President Trump and his administration have expressed extreme frustration over the multiple leaks provided to members of the press from inside the White House.
The recent leaks range from information regarding his executive orders (before he issued them), fighting and chaos among White House staffers, classified conversations with foreign leaders (specifically Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull & Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto), White House staffers conducting meetings in the dark because they can’t figure out how the lights work, and President Trump wandering the White House in his bathrobe.
I’ve seen the story show up repeatedly on social media today, posted by people who dislike President Trump and love the thought that the leaks from his administration are coming from hackers who had compromised his Android smartphone (a phone that at least initially had not been secured by the Secret Service).
As soon as I read it, I figured the story had to be some kind of fabrication. First of all, the kinds of documents that were necessary for the leaks that had come from the Trump administration are not the kind that would be likely to be stored on a smartphone by a guy who is not particularly tech savvy. (This is not a criticism of Trump – merely a statement of fact. He does not use either a computer or a particularly modern smartphone.)
The story also smelled because it was a little too pat – it had too much of a feel of schadenfreude about it. “Wouldn’t it be so appropriate if Trump were being done in by the phone he uses to send out all those early morning tweets?” When a news story you find online matches all your wildest dreams…
So I did what I always do when I want to check out a suspect news site, I look for information about the site. At the Seattle Tribune it was on the Disclaimer page, as clear as day:
The Seattle Tribune is a news and entertainment satire web publication. The Seattle Tribune may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within The Seattle Tribune are fictional and presumably satirical news – with the exception of our ‘list style’ articles that include relevant sources. The content published on The Seattle Tribune is intended to be entertainment and is often intended to generate thought and discussion among its readers. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental. Advice given is NOT to be construed as professional. If you are in need of professional help, please consult a professional. The Seattle Tribune is not intended for children under the age of 18.
Now, that’s not a completely honest statement. The story about President Trump and his phone was not funny in a satirical way – it was clearly “fake news,” complete with links to real stories. It was designed to attract readers drawn to an appealing story, so that those people would see the ads on Tribune’s pages, and hopefully click on them.
To go a bit further with this, there are stories that could come out of hacked phones – such as the ones written by reporters at the British tabloid News of the World who hacked into the phone of a young woman who had been kidnapped and then murdered.
So when you are thinking about posting links to stories on Facebook that make you angry or self-satisfied – why not look for reputable stories from reliable news sources instead of leaping to the click-baitie made-up stories. For example, the well-informed Trump critic could have chosen from the following real stories this morning:
- Vice President Pence had his private AOL e-mail account hacked while he was governor and was conducting state business from it.
- Politico had a well-reported story on the conflict between President Trump and the international diplomacy professionals – including Nikki Haley, his respected UN ambassador. (And as a bonus feature, there’s plenty critical of President Obama’s fights on foreign policy as well.)
- The Wall Street Journal (one of the most conservative in the country), had a story on embattled Attorney General Sessions, the Russians, and who paid for his trip to the Republican National Convention last summer.
And while these stories do not have the delicious sense of self-righteous indignation that the one from the Seattle Tribune did, they have the advantage of being true.