Altered Facebook News Headline Jolts Virginia Governor’s Race

Facebook users beware: that headline on the politically related news article you're reading -- including this one -- may not be real.

An altered Facebook headline on a newspaper story involving a statue of Robert E. Lee has blown up into a major sore point in the Virginia GOP primary for governor. It's not the first time politicians or their allies have changed headlines to suit their own purposes in linking to real news articles on that platform.

They highlight Facebook's increasingly important presence in political campaigns, thanks to its vast reach and ability to target specific subgroups of voters.

Virginia's governor's race is being watched nationally as a possible early referendum on President Donald Trump. The uproar over the altered headline taps into strongly felt opposition over Charlottesville's plan to remove a longstanding statue of the Confederate general there.

Other flaps over altered headlines have erupted in at least two other states recently involving politicians or political groups close to them. The social media site has special tools available to page administrators allowing them to change headlines in ways that make it look like they were written by legitimate news organizations.

Critics complain altered headlines are a new kind of "fake news" to fool casual readers. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was recently called out for a staff-altered newspaper headline including the words "road kill" about legislation he criticized. In North Carolina, a GOP state senator drew fire for an altered headline stating Democratic Gov. Roy "Cooper flip flops on refugees."

Now a group aligned with Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Corey Stewart, a firebrand conservative Trump backer, has weaponized a fake headline to attack rival Ed Gillespie, the GOP establishment's pick for governor. At issue: Gillespie's level of support for Virginia's Confederate monuments.

Stewart pledged no Confederate monuments would be removed if elected, staunchly supportive of Southern history....

Comments are closed.