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Hillary Clinton: "Fake News Epidemic" Is a Danger to the American Public

Hillary Clinton: "Fake News Epidemic" Is a Danger to the American Public

Hillary Clinton warns fake news

The former Democratic nominee railed on the spread of propaganda on social media during a post-election speech.

Hillary Clinton made a rare post-election public appearance Thursday night to warn about the spread of "epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda," which she claimed is a danger to the American public.

"It's now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences," the former First Lady said at a tribute dinner for Sen. Harry Reid, who is retiring after three decades in Congress. "This isn't about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk, lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days, to do their jobs, contribute to their communities. It's a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly."

Although she never mentioned the incident by name, Clinton's comments were likely in reference to a shooting that took place at Comet Ping Pong, a popular Washington D.C. pizzeria frequented by former Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.

News broke in November, just days before the election, that the FBI would be reviewing new details related to its investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server while Secretary of State. State department emails were discovered on the laptop of chief Clinton aide Huma Abedin's estranged husband Anthony Weiner, the former Congressman who is alleged to exchanged text messages of a sexual nature with an underage girl.

Following those revelations, false reports spread on social media that Podesta is using Comet Ping Pong as a front for an underage sex ring. The business reportedly received hundreds of calls from disgusted conservatives who read the conspiracy theory on fake news sites.

One reader, however, took his outrage even further. He showed up to Comet Ping Pong with two shotguns in hand, telling police that he was conducting a "self investigation" of the family-friendly establishment. The man fired multiple shots during a standoff with local authorities before surrendering his weapons when he learned that the stories were false.

Other restaurants in the area have received similar threats.

Besta Pizza, a neighboring fast food chain, has been accused of hosting underage sex parties in the store. Dozens of callers even claimed that the restaurant's logo, which is an image of two yellow pizza slices stacked on top of one another, is actually a symbol for pedophilia.

Abdel Hammad, who owns the business, told Washington D.C.'s WAMU that his life has been threatened in retaliation.

"We've been getting threats," he said. "Somebody's going to come and blow my brains, and they're going to come with guns and they're going to put us out of business. They're even jamming our phone lines by calling us constantly. So it's been really getting bad.

Hammad said that he voted for Trump, but these incidents have made him regret that decision.

"As an immigrant, I came here a long time ago, and this is not the America that I saw the first time when I came in -- the opportunities, the work, everybody working in harmony," the owner claimed. "The least mistake that I make, it feels like the whole world is stumbling down on my business, trying to put me out of business."

In her Thursday address, Clinton called on both the public and private sectors to take action and help prevent more citizens from being victimized.

"Bipartisan legislation is making its way through Congress to boost the government's response to foreign propaganda, and Silicon Valley is starting to grapple with the challenge and threat of fake news," she said. "It's imperative that leaders ... step up to protect our democracy and innocent lives."

The former Secretary of State understands firsthand the threat of digital propaganda. A BuzzFeed report found that during the election, fake news stories were more likely than reputable sources to go viral on social media. These false accounts claimed, for instance, that WikiLeaks documents showed Clinton had sold ammunitions to ISIS and that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump.

Further investigation showed that fake news stories were twice as likely to be biased toward the Republican candidate as toward the Democratic ticket.

Clinton acknowledged during her speech, which was also attended by Vice President Joe Biden, that these were unusual circumstances under which to address Washington, as well as the American public. But the former White House hopeful claimed that doing so was imperative to the health of nation's democracy, as well as our safety.

"This is not exactly the speech at the Capitol I hoped to be giving after the election," she said. "After a few weeks of taking selfies in the woods, I thought it would be a good idea to come out."

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