You've probably seen at least one fake news story circulating on the interwebz. You might, like most of us, have that "one friend" who keeps sharing fake news (particularly with a political slant) and insisting it's the gospel truth. On this week's episode of Law & Order: SVU, though, the show makes a terrifying point about the potential danger fake news sites pose.
Not only do these "journalists" ensure that anyone who shares their content is woefully uninformed, but they can have a ripple effect on reality. As SVU points out in this week's thought-provoking episode, fake news can have very real consequences.
The problem with fake news — aside from the obvious — is the phenomenon that occurs by which people reading it refuse to see the falsehood even when presented with irrefutable evidence. These types of readers of fake news double down. They share more. They perpetuate the lie to the point that they somehow convince themselves the lie is the truth.
Welcome to modern times, my friends... this is the era we live in.
This week's SVU centered on a fake news site called EndlessTruth.com that was prone to peddling lies about a local congressman being involved in a sex-trafficking ring. The sex-trafficking ring, according to the site, operated out of the local Chinese food restaurant the congressman frequented.
The repercussions of this information could be seen early in the episode, when a gunman threatened to open fire in the restaurant because he was convinced that the restaurant owner was hiding a "basement full of underage girls."
Upon investigation, though, Olivia Benson and the team prove that the basement is actually a broom closet and the restaurant has no false walls. Basically, everything EndlessTruth.com was saying was a lie.
But despite holding a press conference to reassure the public the restaurant and the congressman were innocent of the allegations, the owner of EndlessTruth.com simply swerved the narrative to now include SVU as part of a cover-up conspiracy.
He even went so far as to suggest single mothers Olivia and Detective Amanda Rollins both received their babies in exchange for being complicit in the sex-trafficking ring. (Oh, hell no!) As a result, they had to send their children off into protective care until the case could be closed.
Ultimately, a sex-trafficking ring was uncovered by Olivia and her crew, but EndlessTruth.com did not actually aid in this discovery. In fact, you could say they obstructed justice at every turn. The sex-trafficking ring existed because the believers of EndlessTruth.com were essentially living out some self-fulfilling prophecy.
Naturally, Olivia wanted the site taken down immediately. But at this point, SVU took the opportunity to explore whether or not fake news sites fall under First Amendment protection, particularly when they are causing harm to people and businesses.
Unfortunately, the law hasn't quite caught up to such digital frontiers, and it's almost impossible to get a fake news site taken down.
And in this case, that led to the congressman being fatally shot — while visiting the restaurant with his daughter to prove to the public it was still a safe establishment, the politico was killed by a true believer of EndlessTruth.com who was convinced the young girl with the congressman was being trafficked.
It's a dangerous world we live in and getting more dangerous each day thanks to fake news sites.
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