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Facebook Chiefs Crackdown On "Fake News" Epidemic

  • By Chris Boyle
  • 14 Apr, 2017

Social media giant notifies users of intention to curb the spread of illegitimate news stories, offers tips on how to identify them.

You may have noticed something a little different about Facebook today when you logged on to check out the latest happenings with your friends or to post a status update about that great breakfast you just ate. Many users of the world’s biggest social media site, whether accessing it on their computers or mobile devices, were greeted by a message informing them of a new initiative that Facebook will be undertaking- the gradual identification and elimination of so-called “fake” or “false” news from its service.

Fake news has become something of a major phenomenon in recent years; using the massive and relatively unchecked reach of the Internet, fake news has reached a level of global proliferation – especially on social media sites, where it is often mistaken for the real thing and shared endlessly – that has caused it to literally shape people’s views and opinions on major topics. Best described as a hoax and/or a deliberate spread of misinformation, fake news often masquerades as a legitimate news article extolling a very specific – and often, very incorrect or just plain made-up – point of view.

With many internet users often neglecting to verify claims made in the variety of media they are exposed to while surfing the web, fake news has become a very real problem, and one Facebook has been criticized for recently for allowing it to spread unchecked throughout their newsfeeds. Apparently, with this morning’s announcement, the social media site is finally accepting responsibility for attempting to monitor the vast amount of information that filters through its system on a daily basis. A daunting task, no doubt – as of April 2017, there are over 1.86 billion active monthly Facebook users worldwide – but nonetheless a task that sorely needs to be undertaken.

Facebook has long been the biggest disseminator of fake news, although inadvertently via the actions of the segment of its user base who share stories that have a dubious-at-best grip on reality. Long criticized by the media for taking a lackadaisical approach to combating the problem, Facebook has recently attempted to step up its game in that regard. This morning, many users were greeted with an invitation at the top of their Facebook feeds, offering to show them how to best identify and report fake news. For those who accepted the invitation, they found themselves whisked away to  Facebook’s Help Center , where they were offered ten very helpful tips and suggestions for separating the wheat from the chaff in their daily feeds. Here are these tips, for your edification:

  • Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  • Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
  • Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their "About" section to learn more.
  • Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  • Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  • Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  • Check the evidence. Check the author's sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  • Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it's more likely to be true.
  • Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story's details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  • Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

All posts in Facebook now include an option to report it to administrators for possible removal from the service for a variety of reasons, including tagging it as a ‘false news story.’ It’s suggested that all users take advantage of this ability in order to root out illegitimate news stories.

Fake news can take many forms, from simple parody – popular comedy website The Onion is a good example – to articles that clearly cross the line into horrifically libelous territory. One of the most extreme examples was the so-called “Pizzagate” story that was making the rounds last year, which claimed – among other things – that former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and other Democrats were running a satanic child sex trafficking ring(!) out of Comet Ping Pong, a Washington D.C.-area pizzeria. While widely dismissed as nonsense by most of the general public, enough people actually took the story seriously enough that it began to spread throughout social media – going viral – and eventually it was picked up by several “fringe” conspiracy theory-mongering news sites and portrayed by them as legitimate news. Pizzagate culminated in a 28-year-old Salisbury, North Carolina man barging into Comet Ping Pong on December 4, 2016, armed with an AR-15 rifle, who later stated to authorities that he was intent on investigating the child trafficking claims he had read about online for himself. While ultimately no one was hurt during the incident, events could have easily played out differently; either way, fake news – and the general public’s inclination to believe most things they read on the internet – are to blame.

Fake news has been used to a variety of reasons in recent years – to shape opinion, influence elections, spread confusion, and much more – and to combat it, it will take people who are willing to delve beneath the endless stories, memes, articles, and funny cat videos flowing through their daily Facebook and Twitter feeds, educate themselves on what to look for, and help the internet become the essential teaching tool it once was and – with a little work – can be again.

LONG ISLAND NEWS NETWORK

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 19 Jun, 2017

NORTH AMITYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Police say three churches on Long Island have been vandalized with Satanic graffiti.

Suffolk County police say someone spray-painted the graffiti on the three churches between Friday night and Saturday morning.

They were Shaw Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, Zion Gospel Church and Amityville Full Gospel Tabernacle.

Zion Gospel's spiritual leader, Willard Price, told Newsday  that he will pray for the individual who vandalized his church.

Price said he would remove the graffiti in time for Sunday services.

 

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 16 May, 2017

LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY –

Two skimming devices were found on gas pumps at a Lake Ronkonkoma gas station Tuesday morning, Suffolk Police said.

Two internal skimming devices were discovered on pumps at the Gulf station located at 292 Ronkonkoma Ave. at about 8:15 a.m. by a person who was servicing the machines, police said. 

Identity Theft Unit detectives are investigating. 

Skimmers capture debit and credit card numbers that thieves can then use to make fraudulent charges and drain bank accounts.

By email@webs.today Koppelman 14 May, 2017

LINDENHURST, NY – A Long Island woman saved her daughter's life and then lost her own after being struck by a car Sunday morning.

According to Suffolk Police, Diane Aluska and her 16-year-old daughter Jenna were walking on the sidewalk in front of 225 Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst when they were struck by a 2005 Toyota Corolla that was backing out of a diagonal parking spot at about 9:10 a.m.

The Corolla, being driven by 80-year-old Ann Riolo, drove onto the sidewalk in reverse, police said. The car struck the Lindenhurst Fire Department after hitting the pedestrians.

Diane Aluska pushed her daughter out of the way of the car, police said.  

"From what we see, I have no doubt that she   saved   her daughter's life," Det. Sgt. James Murphy said, according to a News 12 report.  

Diane Aluska, 55, was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip where she was pronounced dead. Jenna Aluska and Riolo, of Lindenhurst, were also transported to Good Samaritan for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

No criminal charges have been filed. Police are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the First Squad at   631-854-8152 .

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 28 Apr, 2017

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — It’s the final chapter in a troubling case of illegal dumping — a case prosecutors say caused an  environmental catastrophe in Suffolk County.

On Thursday, a judge called for the end of ‘business as usual’ and sentenced two men — a hauler and his employee — to jail.

Toxins including pesticides, PCBs, and other chemicals that have been banned for a long time were dumped, and  Thomas Datre Jr admitted to doing it, but claimed it was unintentional.

“To anybody who was impacted, I was not out to hurt nobody,” he said.

“He knew that there were rules and regulations in place and where this stuff is supposed to be disposed. He knows there are high costs associated with that, but when you find holes in Suffolk County and you don’t care where it is, it’s pure profit in your pockets,” Assistant Suffolk County D.A. Michelle Pitman said.

Prosecutors said four properties were riddled with thousands of tons of hazardous rubble, the court-ordered cleanup moving at a snail’s pace.

Darte Jr’s attorney said he recklessly cut corners, but had no bad intentions.

“We don’t believe anybody has been hurt, or anyone has been harmed,” attorney Kevin Kearon said.

Taxpayers spent nearly $4-million for cleanup. Wetlands were dumped on, and an affordable housing development for war veterans was contaminated.

One Marine said his dream home was turned into a nightmare.

“Who knows if I am going to develop some form of disease in the future, having that in my mind every day,” Eric Petrie said.

Judge Fernando Camacho sentenced Datre Jr to a year in jail.

“You cannot line your pockets by dumping your filth and poison into our communities,” he said.

Charges against Datre’s father, Thomas Sr. were dismissed. He said the case was devastating.

“Destroyed my name, destroyed my business, destroyed my family,” he said.

Also destroyed were three years of park-going in Brentwood, a community struggling with gang violence.

“A park sits padlocked when they need it more than anything. They can’t have it,” Camacho said, “Because of you.”

Datre Jr’s company was also ordered to pay $600,000 in fines. Parts of Roberto Clemente Park may finally be re-opened this summer.

 

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 26 Apr, 2017

Adam Sandler and Chris Rock will be on Long Island this summer to shoot a new movie for Netflix.

Titled “The Week Of,” the comedy stars Sandler and Rock as parents whose children — a daughter and son, respectively — are about to get married. The film covers a week of preparation for the wedding.

Directed by “Saturday Night Live” veteran Robert Smigel, who co-wrote with Sandler, “The Week Of” marks Sandler’s fourth film for Netflix, which recently extended its original deal to include another four films. The streaming service says that Sandler’s previous features — “The Ridiculous 6,” “The Do-Over” and “Sandy Wexler” — have been “three of the biggest film releases ever on Netflix,” though the company does not provide viewership breakdowns.

Rock, who starred in Sandler’s two “Grown Ups” movies, is currently working on two stand-up comedy specials for Netflix.

A Netflix representative could not say exactly where on Long Island filming would take place. The streaming service announced the film is set to premiere in 2018.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 25 Apr, 2017

An elderly pedestrian was hit and killed by a truck in Lynbrook Monday morning, in what police are deeming an accident.

According to detectives, a 38-year-old driver was backing up a box truck in front of a home on Daley Place at 11:45 a.m. Stephanie O'Neill, 80, of Lynbrook, was walking behind the truck and was hit.

An ambulance took O'Neill to a local hospital. She sustained head trauma and internal injuries, and was pronounced dead by a doctor at 12:53 p.m.

Police conducted a brake and safety check of the truck at the scene, and said there is no apparent criminality.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 25 Apr, 2017

SOUTHAMPTON, NY — A man extradited back to the United States after sexually abusing a girl, 6, in Hamptons Bays, was a defrocked priest, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Augusto Cortez pleaded not guilty Monday at his arraignment before Judge Barbara Kahn in Riverhead, Spota said.

Cortez, 53, pleaded not guilty to the three charges in the indictment: first degree criminal sexual act, first degree sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child, Spota said.

The court remanded the defendant without bail and set a return date of May 15; a temporary order of protection was issued for the victim, Spota said.

Cortez is a registered sex offender who was convicted of forcible touching in Brooklyn in 2009, Spota said.

Spota said the crimes alleged in the indictment occurred in June of 2014 and Cortez was indicted by a grand jury in October of that year, Spota said.

Cortez was extradited and arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport Saturday, police said.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 25 Apr, 2017

Three Long Islanders -- one the alleged ringleader -- are among nine that were indicted Monday for a mortgage fraud scheme. According to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the scheme spanned two boroughs of New York City and resulted in more than $1 million in fraudulent gains.

Among those arrested were Janelle Defreitas, 37, of Uniondale; Lester Wayne Mackey, 63, of Wyandanch; and Darren Downes, 36, of Baldwin. Also charged were Raymond McKayle, 53, of East Flatbush; Jaipaul Persaud, 54, of Fresh Meadows; Roxanne Harmon, 51, of Jamaica; June Whyte, 54, of Ozone Park; Rickley Gregoire, 33, of Brooklyn; and Paula Blackwood-Sambury, 50, of Cambria Heights.

The nine were charged with many crimes, including money laundering, grand larceny, residential mortgage fraud, offering false instruments for filing, conspiracy and related charges.

"Our investigation uncovered a brazen and elaborate scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and steal over $1 million," said Schneiderman. "We have zero tolerance for anyone who tries to cheat the system — and we won’t hesitate to bring them to justice."

According to the Attorney General, from 2012 to 2015, Defreitas, McKayle, Mackey, and Persaud allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and steal mortgage proceeds. In the course of the scheme, they allegedly used sham corporations to acquire titles to four properties in Brooklyn and Queens, and then allegedly conspired with Downes, Harmon, Whyte, Gregoire, and Blackwood-Sambury to obtain mortgages to “buy” the properties in manufactured resales. They allegedly concealed the fact that the buyers couldn’t afford the homes by submitting fraudulent mortgage applications showing grossly inflated incomes from fake jobs, bank accounts with fabricated balances and other false information.  

Prosecutors say that Defreitas acquired the titles two locations in Brooklyn and two in Queens through shell corporations that included West North Capital, Inc., Housing Enhancement and Lifetime Planning (“HELP”), and others. Defreitas allegedly used Downes, Whyte, Gregoire and Blackwood-Sambury to “purchase” the acquired real estate from herself and her companies at significantly higher prices.

To facilitate the sales, it is alleged that McKayle, a licensed mortgage loan originator, would direct Defreitas on how to alter and falsify information in loan applications so that unqualified buyers would be approved for loans they could not afford.

In certain instances, it is alleged, the defendants would acquire properties via a short-sale. According to prosecutors, Harmon, who is an investigator for the New York City Department of Investigation, owed approximately $512,000 on her mortgaged property. Harmon and Defreitas allegedly conspired to fraudulently apply for a short-sale via Harmon’s mortgage holder. Defreitas allegedly concealed her involvement by purporting to represent Harmon through one of the shell companies.

Eventually, based on Harmon’s supposed hardship, the mortgage company agreed to a $100,000 short sale to West North Capital – which was also owned by Defreitas. As a result of alleged misrepresentations made by Harmon and Defreitas to the mortgage company, Harmon’s debt was reduced by approximately $412,000, and Defreitas owned the property without a mortgage lien. A few months later, Defreitas and McKayle allegedly submitted a fraudulent mortgage application so that defendant June Whyte, Harmon’s sister-in-law, could “buy” the property from West North Capital. Whyte’s fraudulent application, including fake paystubs and W-2 statements created by Persaud, was approved and West North – and Defreitas – collected almost $400,000 in mortgage loan proceeds.

The investigation originated from a 2014 complaint to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, as well as an automobile insurance fraud case handled by the New York State Attorney General’s Office involving Defreitas and Downes, for which Downes is currently serving time in jail.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 22 Apr, 2017

MONTAUK, N.Y.   — The Coast Guard came to the rescue of a crew member on board a fishing boat off Long Island on Friday night.

The rescue happened about 65 miles south of Montauk.

The crew member was sick and needed a doctor.

A Coast Guard helicopter lowered a rescuer onto the deck. Then, the 47-year-old man was lifted up in a basket.

There was no word on his condition.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS USA 22 Apr, 2017

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Police say a 90-year-old driver has been killed in a head-on crash on Long Island.

It happened at 2 p.m. Friday in Hicksville.

Nassau County police say 90-year-old Marie Capelli was driving a Hyundai when she hit a Toyota head on.

Capelli was taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

The driver of the Toyota was treated at an area hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

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