Hillary Clinton slams ‘epidemic’ of fake news online: ‘Lives are at risk’

Click to play video: 'Hillary Clinton says ‘fake news’ is a threat to U.S. democracy' Hillary Clinton says ‘fake news’ is a threat to U.S. democracy
WATCH ABOVE: In a rare public appearance Thursday, Hillary Clinton said “fake news” is a danger that must be addressed quickly and called it an “epidemic” that can have “real world consequences.” – Dec 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton slammed what she described as an “epidemic” of fake news circulating on social media networks Thursday during a speech in Washington.

“It is now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences,” Clinton said during a speech paying tribute to retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

“This is not about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk — lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days and do their jobs, contribute to their communities. It is a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.”

READ MORE: The Comet Ping Pong conspiracy and other fake news stories that have surfaced

Those “real-world consequences” Clinton was referring to likely include the shooting inside a Washington pizza shop Sunday. Police said the gunman opened fire as he was investigating a conspiracy theory about Clinton running a child sex ring out of the pizza joint, which circulated online during her run for the White House. No one was hurt during the incident.

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Click to play video: 'Fake news leads to pizzeria shooting in D.C.' Fake news leads to pizzeria shooting in D.C.
Fake news leads to pizzeria shooting in D.C – Dec 5, 2016

WATCH ABOVE: Police in Washington D.C. are blaming a conspiracy theory repeated on fake news sites for a shooting that took place over the weekend. A gunman entered a pizzeria armed with an assault rifle and opened fire. As Mike Armstrong reports, the suspect claims he was driven by what he read online.

In the days following the U.S. election, several media outlets published opinion pieces accusing Facebook of influencing voters by allowing fake news websites and blogs masquerading as legitimate sources to be featured next to articles from legitimate news sources. Several pundits and media companies were concerned the information may have swayed voters towards President-elect Donald Trump.

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been vocal in opposing the reports, claiming less than one per cent of the content shared to Facebook is considered “fake news,” a Buzzfeed article published last month quoted several Facebook employees who claimed fake news “ran wild” on the social network in the months leading up to the election.

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READ MORE: Why some are blaming Facebook for Donald Trump’s presidential win

During a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in November, President Barack Obama also criticized the spread of fake news online, saying that if people can’t distinguish serious arguments from propaganda then “we have problems.”

“We won’t know what to fight for,” he said. “And we can lose so much of what we’ve gained in terms of the kind of democratic freedoms and market-based economies and prosperity that we’ve come to take for granted.”

READ MORE: Obama criticizes spread of fake news on Facebook: ‘We won’t know what to fight for’

On Thursday, during an interview with the Today Show, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg commented on the company’s alleged role in the spread of fake news. Though she dismissed claims fake news may have swayed the election, Sandberg said Facebook takes the concerns seriously.

“We’re working on it,” she said. “Because misinformation is something we take seriously.”

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