This article discusses the news website, Infowars and a recent journalistic error in which the site misrepresented a photo of a random, unrelated individual as the gunman who shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The man in the photo posted to Infowars’ website is named Marcel Fontaine and, in the image, Fontaine is wearing what the conservative news site described as “communist garb.” It is clear that the website and its radical right-wing-founder Alex Jones, attempted to use the tragic school shooting as an opportunity to attract political support for his ideology of ardent anti-communism. While anti-communism is not in and of itself a bad thing, Infowars’ use of misinformation to forward a clear political agenda is very concerning. The subject of the photo, Marcel Fontaine, has indicated that he will be launching a defamation suit against Infowars.
This story sheds light on a very relevant issue which confronts our digital society, the use of our digital environments as a vessel for spreading politicized, misinformation. The decentralized nature of the web often allows fringe political groups, with clear special interests to pose as impartial news providers. While freedom of speech is a key component of our American democracy, the spread of this type of politicized misinformation raises the question, do we need some sort of regulation on journalistic sources who claim to be impartial and ethical news reporting services. Given the ease of access to all sorts of content on the internet, it seems like we may need to help our citizens differentiate between factual content and politicized propaganda.