The “Denver Guardian” is not a real news source and definitely isn’t Denver’s oldest news source.
On Nov. 5, a story began circulating on Facebook (at points gaining 100 shares per minute) with the headline “FBI AGENT SUSPECTED IN HILLARY EMAIL LEAKS FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE,” and hosted at denverguardian.com.
The only problem is that there is no such thing as “The Denver Guardian” and the news story it “reported” never happened.
Let’s run down the list of red flags:
- The domain denverguardian.com was first registered in July 2016 and is hosted by GoDaddy.
- This story is the only story showing up under the “News” section and all other sections are turning up errors.
- There is no Walkerville, Maryland. There is a Walkersville, Maryland, but the city does not have a police department, making the quote from “Walkerville Police Chief Pat Frederick” null and void.
- The address listed for the newsroom is a tree in a parking lot next to a vacant bank building on Colfax.
- Half of the modules on the site itsself are unfinished (see screenshot).
- The site looks suspiciously like “The Baltimore Gazette,” another fake news site that The Baltimore City Paper called out in September for sharing a false news story about police violence and breastfeeding.
- The story references a local TV news staion, WHAG-TV, whose website has no coverage of a murder-suicide house fire whatsoever.
- The image used to illustrate the story was taken by Flickr user Adam Belles in 2010 of his neighbor’s house on fire.
This false story is one of thousands of fake news stories being circulated around Facebook by fly-by-night “hyperpartisan” sites this election cycle, according an investigation by Buzzfeed News.
A second investigation showed that many of the sites spreading the fake news have been created by teens in Macedonia looking to profit off of supporters (and detractors) of Donald Trump.
The teens tried to make pages for Bernie Sanders and other left-leaning politicians, but “people in America prefer to read news about Trump,” according to one Macedonian 16-year-old.
On Nov. 6, Vox posted a story tackling the expected long-term damage this flood of fake news on Facebook could have on democracy and what they say is the social media giant’s responsibility to tackle, sooner than later.