The prevalence of “fake news” in social media contributed to the public turning away from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), according to one of the energy insiders lobbying for the multi-billion project.
Tech-savvy DAPL opponents used a heavy dose of phony news in a multi-thronged campaign to turn the public against the multi-state pipeline, Craig Stevens, the spokesman for Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, wrote Sunday in an editorial for the Washington Examiner.
“We saw fake news play a critical role in the public’s outcry in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Stevens noted. “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, who has worked for several months trying to refute what he calls misinformation surrounding the project, pointed to numerous examples of fake news items he claims helped influence public opinion on the pipeline.
One such example, he said, was an image posted online in September showing a young girl whose face was supposedly mauled by private security dogs associated with police managing the protests. The image was taken from a news story from an incident in Texas several years earlier.
Another Facebook image posted more than a month later, and shared more than 400,000 times, showed thousands of Standing Rock protesters. The image was from a photo captured during a concert at Woodstock in 1969.
“Taken together,” Stevens said, “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 believes the sheer amount of false information – or “white noise,” as he calls it – led the media to miss the simplest facts about DAPL, choosing instead to report waves of misinformation as fact.
News outlets, for instance, reported throughout the past few months that Standing Rock members were not properly consulted about the pipeline’s route.
But the Army Corps attempted more than a dozen times between 2014 and 2016 to discuss the DAPL route with Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Its members either failed to respond to requests for consultation or dragged their feet during the process.
The media also failed to adequately address information, suggesting the DAPL’s construction would cut a swath directly through the tribe’s reservation. The line’s route runs parallel to an already existing pipeline built in the 1980s and is located several miles away from the tribe’s land.
It portends a bad omen, Stevens concluded, that “elected officials and policymakers could so easily be swayed by rhetoric lined with demonstrably false statements.”
Hopefully the new year will usher a newfound skepticism among news breakers and citizens, he added, and “allow sound and legal public policy and private development to move forward.”
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