Apr 6, 2018

#Libspill lies: the problem of groupthink is on us as much as social media platforms

Fake news about an imminent Dutton Prime Ministership illustrates why social media users are as much to blame as platforms for the deep problems created online.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

#Auspol Twitter got all excited yesterday. A user who claims to be a journalist tweeted that an "L/NP party member" had said there would be a partyroom meeting on Monday and that "reports are Peter Dutton’s staff are working numbers to take the leadership".

The fact that this was blatantly, verifiably false -- apart from anything else, parliament doesn't sit for another month (as Phil Coorey pointed out) -- didn't stop Twitter users from going berserk. The hashtag #libspill began trending. People demanded street marches to protest against a Dutton Prime Ministership. Others urged Newspoll respondents to give Turnbull a vote of confidence to head off a challenge. Youth news site Pedestrian then ran a piece on the speculation, because "as we all know with these sorts of things, the presence of smoke tends to indicate an imminent fire." BuzzFeed's Josh Taylor belted them for it, without luck. After all, the press gallery hadn't told the truth about Barnaby Joyce, so it must be hiding the truth about an imminent Dutton takeover.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

14 thoughts on “#Libspill lies: the problem of groupthink is on us as much as social media platforms

  1. BeenAround

    The outrage over Stalkbook peddling personal information for cash does not surprise me. What is surprising is that so many have been surprised and shocked. After all, Zuckerberg said years ago that ‘Privacy is dead’. What we now know is the approximate metrics of how ‘dead’ privacy is.

  2. Nudiefish

    I too saw the #libspill posts on Twitter and almost dislocated my neck by the massive eye-roll it caused. As if….

  3. James Findlay

    Yes, a vast pool of stupidity and gullibility indeed. But you were a pretty strong voice helping to keep the pool from overflowing.

    1. DanBIllin

      Agreed. Your comment has been missed Bernard, but you were often pretty angry on that site, so I understand why you’d opt out.

  4. ken chapman

    I thought it was an April fools prank but they’d stuffed up the date.

  5. Zeke

    I doubt even the Liberals would be stupid enough to install Dutton as PM.

    1. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

      They installed Abbott.

      1. Novagate22

        @Hugh Tick for that

  6. Patrick Harrop

    I think you may be missing the point of the #libspill trend. Many people are fed up with the LNP and Turnbull so an element of wishful thinking with newspoll 30 coming up and playful poking some of the players involved. It’s the social bit of SOCIAL media, people connecting over a common interest and having a discussion…regardless of it actually happening this week. #Libspill will happen at some point before the year comes to a close.

  7. Ben Shurman

    Do you really think anyone believed that there was going to be a spill tipped off by L/NP party member? In the federal sphere they don’t exist together. I think I got away with mentioning it once but I didn’t repeat the error more than a few times. And the only likely source for L/NP insider would be Georgie Porgie Christensen but he’s long since kissed the media and made them cry [Bolt & Credlin]

  8. Arky

    Back in the 80s/90s I would point out that the “Odd Spot” in The Age (do they still have that?) would daily without fail be parroting a demonstrably untrue urban legend and keep it circulating with the imprimatur of a serious news organization “it must be true, it was in The Age”. Then with the era of emails we got everything from the ubiquitous chain emails about the Clintons killing dozens of people to hide their secrets to the “my cousin met a lady whose name was spelled La-a and pronounced Ladasha!” sort of urban legends. And now it’s on Twitter.

    All that has changed is the speed and the platform. You NOTICE the political fake news but it’s still a tiny percentage of the overall bullshit people put around out there about every topic possible.

    It also doesn’t let journalists off the hook just because people are dumb enough to swallow fake news from randos. To some extent this is happening because journalists have squandered their position as trusted news sources and so @gottheinsidescoopforreals becomes as trustworthy a source as @murpharoo, and #libspill about as believable as Katharine Murphy’s quarterly attempts to spruik an Albanese leadership challenge against Shorten. Perhaps moreso. In a vacuum there’s far more reason for Dutton to challenge Turnbull than for Albo to challenge Shorten, after all.

  9. sheamcduff

    I’m fairly confident that some, maybe even most, of the Rudd challenge series of stories that came out of the mainstream media during Gillard’s time were probably fake news. Particularly the Murdoch mob who would happily use the front page to shout about one of their journos getting a hot tip from – take your pick of the following – ‘senior source/anonymous source/unnamed sources’/group of backbenchers/bloke I met in the CPG watering hole/confidential source/fellow journos around the coffee machine ….
    Same plot, different players. Same pot, different stirrers.

  10. AR

    It seems that the problem is ‘same shit, different bucket’.
    While journos. remain glued to their screens, reality is what happens elsewhere.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details