LSU Professor Leonard Apcar speaks on Fake News issue

Darian Graivshark
LSU Professor Leonard Apcar

Sometimes it can be difficult to decipher whether news is fake or real.

On February 5, the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication hosted Professor Leonard Apcar to speak on Russia and Fake News: Louisiana to the World. Apcar has a forty year career in Journalism and has worked with the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Now, Apcar teaches Media Literacy, and holds LSU’s Wendell Grey Switzer Jr. Endowed Chair in Media Literacy at the Manship School. Apcar presented on fake news at the Louisiana State Archives, which is located on Essen Lane in Baton Rouge.

The interest in fake news began with an interest in what manipulated information flows over the past few years. One case in particular involved the Columbian Chemicals plant in Centerville, Louisiana.

"In 2014, the plant apparently experienced a massive explosion," Apcar said. "It was considered an emergency, especially with the toxic fumes. There was even a Youtube video on the explosion, as well as a Tweet storm on Twitter. However, all of it was fake. This was orchestrated by a troll factory in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"The news was extinguished by TV media, though. The purpose of the Russian [troll] factory was to gather information on these particular Louisiana residents."

Further, Apcar discussed Mueller’s Indictments, by Robert Mueller, who was a former FBI Chief, and which began between 2014 and 2018. Russian businesses were known to be corrupting information flows in 2016 of websites like Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts.

Specifically, two women, Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogacheva, were indicted. They left Russia in 2014 and made their way to the states. Together, they were on the road to gather intelligence for the Russian research agency on culture in the United States. It has also been noted that they were trying to meddle in the elections.

"A few books I recommend includeHacks by Donna Brazile andWhat Happened by Hillary Clinton," Apcar said. "Both do a wonderful job on explaining the Russian hackings, especially when Clinton was running for president.

"It shares information on the email hackings and how they were released by WikiLeaks shortly before the election when Trump began to face more pressure with the Hollywood Access tapes."

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, author of Cyber-War and Professor of Communication at University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, said, "With the release of the email information, I believe this was the moment that undecided voters of this last election were ultimately tipped to favor voting for Trump."

According to Apcar, about 126 million Facebook users and 1.4 million Twitter users say Russian-created content. The Russian interventions of the elections created protests and counter protests. Their advantages in the U.S., however, included First Amendment rights and a lightly regulated internet.

Things to look for if something seems like fake news include checking the quotes. You can copy and paste a quote into the internet and search to see if it has been published somewhere else. If it has not, there is a possibility that it is a fake quote. You can also check to see if they cite records or data, or sharing with others where they got their information from.

Another simple way to avoid fake news is to see if other reputable news sites are sharing information on it. If something seems fake and a reputable news source, like ABC News, isn't sharing information on it, then it is probably fake.

Follow Darian on Twitter @dariangshark.