Politics

Surprise, Surprise: That Story Circulating About Labor’s ‘Death Tax’ Is Totally Fake

Labor has already called on social media sites to take responsibility for the false story.

Bill Shorten and Labor have been hit with a misleading fake news story

It’s easy to underestimate fake news, given that it’s become one more buzzword, drained of all of its meaning.

But fictions masquerading as news stories are a genuine problem when it comes to election time, able to sway votes and send Australians deeper into their own harmful echo chambers.

Case in point: the Australian election has already been hit by its first major fake news saga. As the Herald Sun are reporting, a link to a legitimate interview with the treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been spread on Facebook with an accompanying and totally illegitimate fact — the claim that Labor plan to impose a ‘death tax’ that would see 40% of all cash willed between relatives go to the government after death.

“If you die before your spouse she will have to pay 40 per cent of what your worth to the government,” reads the post, according to the Herald Sun. “When she dies your kids will have to pay 40 per cent of what she had left to the government and this includes the family home.”

Of course, the claim sounds totally ludicrous, and a simple Google search would make it clear that Labor have no plans to enforce such a tax. But that’s exactly the thing — some voters don’t Google news they first encounter on Facebook. Although the internet appears to give readers a choice between a variety of information sources, it’s becoming increasingly clear that some voters don’t utilise that privelege. Which makes them particularly vulnerable to fake news scams like this one.

But Labor aren’t taking the stunt lying down. According to the Herald Sun, the Labor campaign has already contacted Facebook in an attempt to raise their “serious concerns” about the post, and other instances of fake news like it. They’re concerned that fake news could have a real, measurable impact on the forthcoming election.

And they’re right to have that worry. It’s already clear that fake news stories had an impact on the American election — an impact that Facebook and other social media sites have, critics believe, done little to mitigate.