Webworm with David Farrier
Webworm with David Farrier
You Can't Undo Fake News

You Can't Undo Fake News

Once the damage is done, it stays done.


I’ve been thinking a lot about Corey Harris, the 44-year old man who went viral after Zooming into his court appearance while driving.

Corey on his zoom call to a judge

The headlines generated were basically all the same: “Man With Suspended Driver's License Dials Into Court Hearing While Driving”.

The headlines said it all, and most people would read no further — and if they did they’d just find a series of paragraphs expanding on the same point but using different words — all written with a kind of glee at how fucking stupid this man was:

The problem was, he joined the May 15 call while driving a vehicle, something that isn’t allowed when a driver’s license is suspended ― trust us on this!

The video of Corey’s confused expressions went viral on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok — no-one really stopping to think why he looked so confused.

He looked confused because a judge had ordered his driving suspension lifted over two years ago. 7News Detroit reported this fact, pointing out it was the court’s fault because they’d never passed those orders on.

What was I thinking? I was thinking about getting my wife medical help. That’s what I was thinking,” Corey told 7News.

Great — story cleared up, Corey can go back to millions of people realising what they’d been told was incorrect and that maybe he was doing nothing wrong and was actually really stressed out during the whole ordeal.

Of course, as author Jason Pargin pointed out, the story isn’t cleared up because barely anyone will read the stories saying the old story was incorrect. They will march on with their lives, remembering the time that idiot dialed into a court appearance while driving when he wasn’t meant to be driving what an idiot he was so dumb.

The original story was driven to the top of every news service and social media site by metrics and algorithms built to feed us what is often the biggest bullshit of the day. The stories about the story won’t get nearly the same amount of attention.

On top of this, the original stories painting Corey as a criminal still exist, meaning headlines like this will appear in Google searches for many years to come:

"Man With Suspended Driver's License Dials Into Court Hearing While Driving" followed by an "updated 16 hours ago"

Most people only read a headline, and the tiny “updated 16 hours ago” won’t mean a thing. Click through to the piece and you get this:

UPDATE: Newly discovered evidence shows that Corey Harris was actually allowed to have his driving privileges reinstated years ago. You can read the updated story here, while the original piece is below.

That original piece remains, the damage done, the comments on YouTube still featuring the most upvoted, incorrect comments:

"what a dumbass"

This is shitty for Corey Harris, who has a life and a family and now has to un-explain this narrative constantly for God knows how long.

But the structures that allow this to happen are shitty for all of us, who have to live in a world where bad information spreads so easily, quickly becoming our shared reality. We are all living increasingly stressed, busy lives and we simply don’t have the time to fact check everything that comes our way.

And what is coming our way at unfathomable volumes is factually incorrect information, increasingly driven by bad actors.

It’s irritating always having to reference this man, but it’s how people like Donald Trump exist. He knows he can spin bad information faster than any news outlet or individual voter can fact check it.

It’s why the anti-trans brigade can talk about kitty litter in schools and keep getting away with it: No matter how many times it’s debunked, the original bad idea is so strong it remains engrained in millions of brains that never read beyond a headline.

Bad information has simply become a meme that’s impossible to erase.


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Webworm with David Farrier
Webworm with David Farrier
Join journalist and documentary filmmaker David Farrier as he explores various rabbit holes, trying to make sense of the increasingly mad world around him.
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