Monday, December 5, 2016

N.C. man told police he went to D.C. pizzeria with assault rifle to ‘self-investigate’ election-related conspiracy theory; Washington Post, 12/5/16

Faiz Siddiqui and Susan Svrluga, Washington Post; N.C. man told police he went to D.C. pizzeria with assault rifle to ‘self-investigate’ election-related conspiracy theory:
[Kip Currier: In the wake of post-2016 Presidential Election revelations by fake news writers, research findings on fake news here and here and here, and efforts by tech giants over the past few weeks to rein in fake news dissemination and proliferation here in the U.S. and abroad, this story about a seemingly fake-news-weaponized assailant's dangerous "conspiracy theory reconnaissance" on Sunday at a popular pizza eatery in Chevy Chase, Maryland and his impact on other businesses and area residents is a chilling example of the potentially dire consequences that fake news and conspiracy theories can have. Thankfully no one was physically injured. But this is a wake-up call to all of us about the legitimate threat fake news poses to democratic values and democracy itself, as well as to personal liberty and public safety. I've not been to Comet Ping Pong yet but have enjoyed browsing the nearby Politics and Prose bookstore (which each month hosts an incredible array of authors for book talks nurturing the free flow of information, ideas, and speech!) and grabbing a delicious Fox BLT at The Little Red Fox on my way back to Pittsburgh.]
"The popular family restaurant, near Connecticut and Nebraska avenues NW in the Chevy Chase neighborhood, was swept up in the onslaught of fake news and conspiracy theories that were prevalent during the presidential campaign. The restaurant, its owner, staff and nearby businesses have been attacked on social media and received death threats...
The restaurant’s owner and employees were threatened on social media in the days before the election after fake news stories circulated claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant’s backrooms. Even Michael Flynn, a retired general whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared stories about another anti-Clinton conspiracy theory involving pedophilia. None of them were true. But the fake stories and threats persisted, some even aimed at children of Comet Ping Pong employees and patrons. The restaurant’s owner was forced to contact the FBI, local police, Facebook and other social-media platforms in an effort to remove the articles.
Last month, citing its policy against posting the personal information of others, Reddit banned the “pizzagate” topic.
But it didn’t stop the harassment, and nearby businesses have received threats as well, according to police. On Sunday, Washington Post reporters involved in this article were the target of online threats shortly after it posted.
Matt Carr, the owner of the Little Red Fox market and coffee shop, said his business started getting threats last weekend...
Politics and Prose, the bookstore that has been a Washington institution and neighborhood fixture for more than 30 years, was in the middle of a book event when attendees and staff saw police converging on the block, said Bradley Graham, a store co-owner.
They, too, had received threats recently, Graham said, and were planning to meet with police Monday “because we had feared that what, up to now, had been simply despicable menacing verbal attacks online or on the phone might escalate.”"

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