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Fake news on Facebook leads to death threats for Norwegian party leader

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Fake news on Facebook leads to death threats for Norwegian party leader
Trine Skei Grande, seen with PM Erna Solberg in the foreground, said she has received death threats as a result of the Facebook group. Photo: Vegard Wivestad Grøtt / NTB scanpix
11:39 CET+01:00
The political leader of the Liberals (Venstre), Trine Skei Grande, said on Thursday that she has been the victim of a witch hunt and constant harassment from a Facebook group of opponents of Norway’s new mandatory passenger charges.
Grande said the members of the group are using false news articles to smear her name and she claims to have also received a number of death threats. 
 
Some of the 80,000 members of the group ‘NEI til Trine Skei Grandes flyseteavgift’ (”No to Trine Skei Grande’s passenger seat fee”) have taken to falsifying the headlines of legitimate news articles from VG and other Norwegian media outlets in order to make Grande look bad, Aftenposten reported. 
 
Someone in the group also posted Grande’s personal phone number. 
 
“It has caused several death threats and I have at times felt the need for police protection,” Grande told Aftenposten
 
According to Aftenposten, the group’s members have recently begun spreading false news by manually changing newspaper headlines and teasers.
 
In one example, users changed the teaser to a VG article on parliament’s approval of extra early retirement benefits for MPs to include the following fictional quote from Grande: “Obviously I deserve to have two years of paid vacation on the day I resign from politics.” Grande is not quoted at all in the actual article
 
In a follow-up article, in which VG reported that MPs were now backing off the extra year of early retirement benefits, the article’s headline was changed from ‘Early retirement falls – [Labour leader Jonas Gahr] Støre accepts the blame’ to ‘Early retirement falls – Trine Skei Grande is disappointed’. For good measure, the falsified headline was complemented by a fake quote from Grande saying that no one deserves two years of retirement benefits as much as she does. Once again, she was not actually quoted in the article
 
The Liberals have filed several complaints about the group to Facebook, but the social media giant has not taken any action. Facebook has said that the group does not violate its standards.
 
Prime Minister Erna Solberg weighed in on the situation on Friday, writing on Facebook that the spread of fake news is a threat to society.
 
"We politicians have to endure a lot, but this way of harassing a politician by spreading false news with fake quotes is devastating for all of us. It challenges the trust we are so happy to have here in Norway and it hurts politicians and the media," she wrote
 
The issue arises as Facebook is under increasing criticism to do something about the spread of fake news on the site, particularly after the US election saw a number of demonstrably false stories go viral on the social media network to the benefit of President-elect Donald Trump. 
 
On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will implement several measures to address the problem, making it easier for users to flag stories as false and then have them checked by third parties. Disputed articles will be flagged so that users will receive a pop-up warning before they share a fake story. 
 
But perhaps foreshadowing the problems Facebook will face, the anti-Grande group said that she and the Liberals “don’t understand the difference between ‘fake news’ and satire”.
 
“With this argument, Trine Skei Grande and Venstre are trying to stamp us as frivolous. Once again the party that has been halved to a pathetic 2.7 percent [voter support, ed.] needs to go out and play the victim,” the group wrote. 
 
But even the group’s defence of his tactics seemed to play loose with the facts. Its subsequent post included a link to the latest polls, which showed that the Liberals actually have 3.5 percent of voter support. 

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