In a new opinion piece, Craig Stevens, spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, outlined how ‘fake news’ shaped the public debate and governmental decisions regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“We saw fake news play a critical role in the public’s outcry in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Stevens wrote. “From my perspective, it was astounding that individuals and even elected officials were so loose with the truth and so unaffected by the facts.”
Stevens went on to outline several instances when blatantly false information shared by pipeline opponents, including multiple images that originated decades ago during completely unrelated events.
“[A] Facebook image — ostensibly of thousands of Standing Rock protesters — was shared more than 400,000 times. However, a critical eye and a quick Google search debunked the image as a photo from Woodstock 1969.”
As Stevens noted, the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy highlighted an extreme example of how ‘fake news’ can have impacts far beyond its origins as white noise on social media channels. In the case of Dakota Access, it is evident that the steady flow of false information allowed mainstream media and elected officials to miss key facts about a vital piece of national infrastructure.
“Taken together, this groundswell of armchair activism, coupled with the perpetuation of fake news, helped support an ultimately political decision that halted a $3.8 billion dollar infrastructure project,” Stevens wrote. “It’s concerning that as we move forward, elected officials and policymakers could so easily be swayed by rhetoric lined with demonstrably false statements.”
Read Stevens’ full opinion piece here.