PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020/AP) - Bizarre rumors that began with a leaked email referencing Hillary Clinton and sinister interpretations of references to pizza parties morphed into fake news stories about a child sex trafficking ring run by prominent Democrats operating out of a Washington, D.C., pizza joint.
On Sunday, it culminated in violence when police say a North Carolina man fired an assault rifle inside the Comet Ping Pong restaurant as he attempted to "self-investigate" the conspiracy theory known in the Twitterverse as "Pizzagate."
No one was hurt and the man was arrested. But the shooting alarmed those from neighboring businesses all the way to the White House about the real life dangers of fake news on the internet.
Andrew Conte, Point Park University's director of the Center for Media Innovation and contributor to the Tribune Review, tells the "KDKA Morning News" the internet has made it difficult to discern what real news is and what is untrue.
"The fact that people are still not willing to repudiate [fake news] and say this is wrong is just amazing," says Conte.
Conte says one of the reason people will believe fake news, even if it is proven to be fake is because, "people want to believe what reinforces what they already think."
According to Conte, there are two kinds of fake news, "Somebody make it up by accident . . . they put it out there and then it grows on its own but what we're also seeing now is a real malicious thing where people are going out and creating fake news in an effort to try and affect real world things and that's where it gets really frightening."
Conte says if a story seems too good or strange to be true, to do some research:
"Two weeks before [the Pizzagate incident] the New York Times did a story on how the whole thing was made up and yet because it was on Reddit people got themselves all whipped up on it and [the suspect] still believed it."
Listen to the "KDKA Morning News" with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.