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A post that appears to have originated from fake news purveyors in Macedonia used a real news item from months ago to falsely say the U.S. state of Georgia has outlawed "Muslim culture."
A March 13, 2017, post on USANewsPost.us carried the headline, "Georgia becomes first state to ban Muslim culture in historic move to restore Western values."
Facebook users flagged the post as potentially being fake, as part of the social media giant’s efforts to remove fake news from news feeds.
PolitiFact Georgia examined the origins of this claim as part of the inaugural International Fact-Checking Day, April 2, 2017. Organizers at Poynter.org describe the day as "not a single event but a rallying cry for more facts - and fact-checking - in politics, journalism, and everyday life."
The story cited an actual event — a Peach State lawmaker had introduced a bill in November 2016 in the Georgia General Assembly that would have banned the wearing of burqas, niqabs and veils. The story trumpeted the bill as being "about keeping the American people safe."
But the post did not indicate that the legislation never became law.
State Rep. Jason Spencer on Nov. 15 filed HB 3 for the 2017 legislative session. The bill aimed to expand the scope of a state law passed in 1951 that made wearing a mask a misdemeanor (unless it was for celebrations, work, sports or emergencies). The original law aimed to prevent Ku Klux Klan members from wearing their hoods.
Spencer’s bill could have prevented Muslim women from wearing any kind of head covering while driving, or possibly even while on public property. It also prevented people from wearing veils in driver’s licenses and government-issued IDs, a rule the state already had.
"This bill is simply a response to constituents that do have concerns of the rise of Islamic terrorism, and we in the State of Georgia do not want our laws used against us," Spencer told Atlanta’s WSB-TV.
The quote is cited in the USANewsPost.us article, which made an inference that if the bill passed, Georgia would have stopped "Muslim culture" in a way no other state had. (For the most part, the wearing of religious headcoverings is protected by the First Amendment.)
But the bill didn’t pass the General Assembly, because Spencer withdrew the measure just two days later.
"After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created," he said in a statement.
"While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created. My objective was to address radical elements that could pose a threat to public safety. However, further consideration dictates that other solutions will need to be considered. In conclusion, anti-masking statutes have been upheld as constitutional (State vs Miller, 1990), and HB 3 would withstand legal scrutiny, but not political scrutiny."
The Miller case to which Spencer refers involved a Klan member who challenged the Anti-Mask Act and lost.
USANewsPost.us cites DailyUSAUpdate.com as the source of the post, and that site in turn says the post came from OpenMagazines.com. The story also has been shared on Facebook, across several other websites, tens of thousands of times.
We contacted OpenMagazines.com via email to ask them about the misleading headline but didn’t hear back.
BuzzFeed has previously reported that both OpenMagazines.com and DailyUSAUpdate.com are registered to owners in Macedonia. The former Yugoslav republic became a hotbed of fake news during last year’s presidential election. Buzzfeed found that teenagers in the town of Veles operated at least 140 websites that published fake political news in the United States to draw in advertising dollars.
USANewsPost.us also is registered to an administrator and address in Veles.
Bloggers said in a headline, "Georgia becomes first state to ban Muslim culture in historic move to restore Western values."
The post misrepresents the outcome of a months-old and short-lived legislative proposal from November 2016 that could have prevented Muslim women from hearing veils and headscarves. Muslim culture was not banned, although it did appear to briefly be under attack.
We rate the headline False.https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/7d5870f1-b151-4df4-92f4-575cdb8cb199
USANewsPost.us, "Georgia becomes first state to ban Muslim culture in historic move to restore Western values!!!," March 13, 2017
DailyUSAUpdate.com, "Georgia becomes first state to ban Muslim culture in historic move to restore Western values!!!," March 13, 2017
OpenMagazines.com, "Georgia becomes first state to ban Muslim culture in historic move to restore Western values!!!," March 13, 2017
Buzzfeed, "How Teens In The Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News," Nov. 3, 2016
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "A bill to restrict the wearing of Muslim burqa and veil in Georgia," Nov. 16, 2016
WSB-TV, "Lawmaker withdraws bill banning women from wearing burqas in public," Nov. 17, 2016
CNN, "Georgia lawmaker withdraws bill to restrict burqas," Nov. 17, 2016
Georgia House of Representatives, "Rep. Jason Spencer to Withdraw House Bill 3," Nov. 17, 2016
Associated Press, "After Muslim backlash, Georgia lawmaker drops change to no-mask law," Nov. 18, 2016
Washington Post, "After outcry, Georgia lawmaker abandons bill that would have banned Muslims from wearing veils," Nov. 18, 2016
Buzzfeed, "An Old Hoax Is Going Viral Again Thanks To Macedonian Pro-Trump Sites And Facebook Pages," Feb. 8, 2017
Georgia General Assembly, "2017-2018 Regular Session - HB 3," accessed March 24, 2017
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