Monday January 23, 2017

Fact-checking website Snopes fights fake news in 'post-truth' era

Fact-checking website Snopes has gone from verifying urban legend to fighting against misinformation in the news through fact-checking in this 'post-truth' era.

Fact-checking website Snopes has gone from verifying urban legend to fighting against misinformation in the news through fact-checking in this 'post-truth' era. (snopes.com)

Listen 11:29

Read story transcript

In last year's U.S. election many people were taken in by so-called "fake news" stories. Whether it's reports of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton at a Washington D.C. pizzeria or pictures seeming to show Donald Trump at a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning.

Separating fact from fiction in stories like those has kept the writers at Snopes.com quite busy for the past few months. The online resource has been debunking urban myths for nearly two decades but the advent of fake news means that their brand of fact-checking is in urgent demand. 

Managing editor of Snopes Brooke Binkowski tells The Current's guest host Connie Walker how the site aims to be a good starting point for people to find out the truth about a story.

"We try to be as transparent as possible and put as many citations and links as we possibly can to our supporting evidence — usually we try to use primary sources."

Binkowski says the journalism on the wesbite is held up to a "stringent academic standard" and staff come from strong academic or journalistic backgrounds that have developed a beat.

"We don't really expect to convince everybody but we hope that if you're on the fence and you take a look at our evidence that you are compelled to research for yourself."

Binkowski says the fake news that has catapulted in the public discourse in the last few months looks "tremendously like propaganda."

"There is a big gap in what people are getting and what people want. People are not getting enough news. They're not getting enough information," she says.

Binkowski blames the lack of resources the U.S. news media have been left with after cut backs and lay offs.

"People aren't stupid. They know that there's not news to read. They know there's more out there, so they go looking for it," says Binkowski.

"And then what they find may look legitimate but it's generally specious or satirical or just outright untrue."

Binkowski tells Walker this "informational gap" should act as a warning for other other countries that may have a "flailing or failing news media."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar.