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Clone Your Own

Elizabeth Warren Endorses Bernie—Not! Michael T. Hertz

Clone Your Own

You are a big supporter of Bernie Sanders, and one of your biggest wishes is that Elizabeth Warren would endorse him for President. One day you're perusing your Facebook news feed and – wonder of wonders! -- there's an article that says “Warren Endorses Sanders, Breaking With Colleagues.” You blink. Is this for real? It looks like an article from the New York Times. It says “New York Times,” the typeface is New York Times, and the entire article looks genuine. So you start sharing it with your friends and in groups, you start to get excited but then suddenly people start writing to you. “It's a fraud.”

Uh oh. How did that happen?

It's happening a lot, nowadays, thanks to a free app called Clone Zone. “Clone Zone lets you create your own version of popular websites. Pick a webpage you would like to clone, like an article or a blog post on a popular news site. Create your own story. Edit titles and text, swap and upload images. Share your creation with friends via a unique url and watch the views roll in.”

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All sort of innocent fun, right? Nope. People are using Clone Zone to mislead, fool, and trick in the political process. The fake New York Times article stating that Warren endorsed Sanders really was out there, fooling lots of people. I should know, because I was one of those who got fooled and started sharing it around Facebook until I was told that it was a fraud.

We've all learned, over and over again, that there are a million news sources out there, and a great many are suspect. But now even the respected sources are suspect, because they can be cloned.

Our country prides itself on freedom of speech. But in this day and age, it's almost impossible to tell whether a purported fact is true or not. You'd think that a video of someone saying something means that person did in fact speak those words, but it's so simple to falsify a video. I had that experience watching a video of President Obama. The video I was watching had him saying, “This fact is true.” Only, in reality he was discussing a hypothetical. He was saying, “Let's suppose this fact is true.” The video was edited to eliminate the “let's suppose” language and make it appear that if he were stating that his hypothetical was true. You could only know the truth by finding another copy of the same video and seeing that the first version was edited.

The moral of this story is that we get inundated with information but it gets more and more difficult to decide that is true and what is not.

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Michael T. Hertz