Fake news isn’t always so funny. While the Onion and The Daily Show have had us in stitches for years, fake news and false information published by a seemingly real news site can be damaging.
Does a news aggregator like Google News bear responsibility for the fake or factually incorrect news it disseminates? Does Google News have some sort of mechanism to address errors or make requests for corrections or removal from its news feed? What if a news site publishes false information that harms people affected by a global health pandemic?
This news item popped up in my Google News feed last month, reported by Empire State News
“A media advisory from a New York state senator [sic], Alison Boak, presents a dubious statistic: that one in five children are sexually abused. Really? According to who?… The truth is this: less than one percent of children are sexually abused.”
The article cites no sources. If Empire State News reporter Temple Li or her editor had done a quick fact-check, the question raised would have been answered, and ESN’s reported “truth” easily refuted.
According to this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Justice: “Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.”
On the surface, this story is about an incorrect statistic published by a tiny news outlet that no one reads anyhow. So why does it even matter?
I have been advocating for and writing about the Child Victims Act of New York, embattled legislation that proposes to eliminate the statute of limitations restrictions for claims of child sexual abuse.