If like a huge number of people you get your news from social media, you're likely to have seen a story this week claiming that pop star Taylor Swift is a proud Trump supporter. The report is completely fabricated -- as is the image of Swift wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat.
Image: Freedom's Final Stand
This type of misinformation -- quickly produced and easily discredited, with the express intention of feeding into the confirmation bias of an increasingly media-averse populous -- has become increasingly common place. Since the US election, Facebook has come under fire for letting stories containing blatant lies circulate as if they were regular news. But I must say, this particular instance of fake news is particularly brazen.
The story (Taylor Swift SHOCKS Music Industry: "I Voted For Trump") appears on lifeeventweb.com, an innocuous name which belies the fact that its entire editorial output is pro-Trump misinformation. LEW's clunky page bears the pithy tagline "welcome to our website", and its content is as aggressively middling as its web design.
Despite every reason not to trust this obviously disreputable news source, a disturbing number of people on Facebook seemed content to share the article "Swift votes for Trump" story as fact -- especially to interest pages such as Trump Friends and The Trump Party. 4chan's /pol/ celebrated Swift's alleged voting decision by photoshopping the singer into a Nazi uniform.
The article itself is riddled with misinformation and outright lies that are laughably easy to fact check. Its first line is a quote never uttered by Swift:
"We need more and more jobs. Unemployment is way up here," She said. "He's hired more employees, more people, than anyone I know in the world."
Those words were widely attributed to Denzel Washington and were used as part of a similar hoax to suggest the actor was a Trump supporter -- a supposition which has already been discredited by Snopes. The actual quote comes from civil rights activist Medgar Evers who died over 50 years before Trump's campaign began.
Life Event Web claims Swift's Myspace page contained the quote, "Republican's [sic] do it better." While screenshots scraped from her personal Myspace did surface early this year, that quote is nowhere to be found among them.
Then there's this line, actually spoken by Swift:
"The line wrapped around the building," she laughed, "but I can honestly tell you that it was worth the wait. I felt like I really accomplished something special.
Which is pulled from an interview with People magazine in 2008 after Swift voted for the first time. Back then she wouldn't say who she'd cast her ballot for, and her discretion on the topic of her vote has not changed this election cycle.
The source for all this misinformation is listed as questionable news outlet Freedom's Final Stand, which took a milder headline approach (Did Taylor Swift Vote For Donald Trump?? Here's What We Know...) despite being an almost identical article. FFS readily admits in a caption below the MAGA hat-wearing Swift: "Here's a photo shopped [sic] image of the Starlet if she did vote for Trump." That image has been shared many times -- outside the context of this demonstrably false article -- and especially within Reddit's r/the_donald.
The only nugget of truth in either article?
The Donald himself has been a fan of Swift for years.
A Billboard article from November of 2015 quotes the President-elect describing Swift's work as "terrific". Technically, that's a single year, not years, but lets call it close enough.
The spread of this article coincides with commitments from both Facebook and Google to pull ad revenue from fake news sites following claims that the spread of fake news helped to sway this election in Trump's favour. It remains to be seen if a more meandering path to profitability will in any way curb the spread of idiotic, demonstrably false articles such as this.
We reached out to Taylor Swift's management for clarification on her vote, but had not heard back at time of writing.