Democrats use fake local media websites to sway midterm voters

by Jacob Fuller
Democrats use fake local media websites to sway midterm voters

Chris Lieberman, FISM News

 

Dozens of online media outlets claiming to be local news are reportedly being run by Democratic activists in an effort to influence voters ahead of the crucial midterm elections.

Axios reported that at least 51 purportedly local news web outlets in battleground states are in fact run by Democratic operative and fundraiser David Brock, founder of the progressive news site The American Independent and liberal media watchdog Media Matters.

These sites bear the names of localities in swing states such as Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

On the surface, the sites appear to be ordinary news outlets, providing local news, national news, and sports stories. But while they have the appearance of an objective news source, interspersed among the news stories are opinion pieces supporting Democratic candidates and attacking Republican ones, as well as political news stories aimed to promote liberal candidates and paint conservatives in a bad light.

One headline reads, “[Wisconsin Democratic] Gov. Evers Continues Push Towards Expanding Broadband Internet Access for Rural and Other Underserved Communities,” while another says, “[Arizona Republican Governor nominee] Kari Lake Takes Aim at State Income Tax.”

According to Axios, six writers from The American Independent are responsible for most or all of these outlets’ content. Their websites contain little information about ownership, saying they are run by a Florida-based company called Local Report, Inc., which was founded last year.

Publishing stories that appear to be local news but are actually meant to support a political party or candidate is a common recent trend in American politics known as “pink slime” journalism, named after the filler used in fast food meat. While the news sites themselves do not often generate much traffic, candidates and political parties can link to the stories in order to give their claims a veneer of objective credibility.

“This is a way to make people think they’re getting all the information, because they’re getting it from an independent source, or disinterested source, when they’re not,” Richard Vatz, a professor of rhetoric and communication at Towson University, told The National Desk.

The American Independent claims that it is simply investing more in local journalism to help stop the spread of misinformation.

“It’s been widely reported that where local news outlets shut down, dis- and misinformation grows,” The American Independent Executive Editor Jessica McCreight told Axios. “To combat this challenge, The American Independent has expanded to bring readers local, fact-based news and information on topics and issues that impact their communities.”

However, it appears that these websites may be guilty of spreading misinformation themselves.

In September, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reporter Nick Wooten called out Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ campaign for tweeting an article from one of the Local Report outlets that Wooten claims used parts of his story without properly crediting him and also misrepresented what he reported. Abrams later deleted the tweet and instead posted a link to Wooten’s original story.

Last month, NewsGuard, which rates the credibility of media sources, flagged a separate group of American Independent-connected outlets for “fail[ing] to adhere to several basic journalistic standards.” This led to Meta removing many of the sites’ Facebook and Instagram ads for violating the company’s advertising policies.

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