The topic of fake news stories circulating Facebook has been a hot one since the presidential election ended. It’s also been on the mind of Elon Musk, who says he’s apparently a target for fake news stories as well criticizing his use of taxpayer money at his various companies.
The “fake pieces” that Musk is referencing include “Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9” from The Federalist, “Here’s How Elon Musk Stole $5 Billion in Taxpayer Dollars” from the Libertarian Republic and “Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace” from the Liberty Conservative, reports Bloomberg. They all come from the same writer, who doesn’t appear to be real.
Taking to Twitter today, Musk tweeted out his frustration.
Each of these stories carried a Shepard Stewart byline, but here’s the thing: Shepard Stewart doesn’t seem to be a real person. Bloomberg writes,
“Definitely a fake,” says Gavin Wax, editor-in-chief of the Liberty Conservative. A chagrined Wax says the “Stewart” character “went totally dark on us after we published him.” Wax discovered that a photograph “Stewart” uses online appears to be an altered version of a former Twitter executive’s LinkedIn headshot.
Indeed, if you Google Shepard Stewart, the results come up very thin. His bio on The Federalist lists him as “a freelance political journalist based out of Washington DC,” and it doesn’t appear that he’s written anything else for the site.
The Libertarian Republic and the Liberty Conservative have since pulled their stories, but The Federalist, whose story ran on Sept. 2, hasn’t touched theirs. Here’s a screenshot of it in case it goes anywhere.
The primary problem here seems to be these three outlets not properly vetting “Shepard Stewart”, or not caring if his “work” was accurate or not. This lack of vigilance only helps to feed the fake news beast, and that’s clearly a problem with dire consequences.
Correction: An earlier version of this story implied that all three outlets were “fake” news sites; the issue here is the lack of vetting that allowed this “Shepard Stewart” writer to proliferate.