(ABC News) -- A fake news story claiming the U.S. House passed a bill to block Sharia law has gotten twisted around online. Though no such bill has passed, the story does have its roots in actual events in a western state.
The original fake news story, flagged by Facebook users as part of ABC News' partnership with Facebook, claims the House passed a bill to prohibit Sharia law in the United States. Sharia law is a set of religious rules that govern devout Muslim behavior, usually, in modern times, in their private lives. The story’s headline screams: "BREAKING: Vote Passes 56-44 In The House, Bill To PROHIBIT Sharia Law In United States."
The fake news story was posted on "The Washington Feed" -- which is not tied to the Washington Post or the Washington Times, despite a similar font and graphics. It says the bill passed through the House, "largely along party lines with a 56-44 vote.” There are 435 members in the House -- not 100 members -- even though the fake news story references "members of Congress." (It is the Senate that contains 100 members.)
The Washington Feed did not respond to a request for comment via its website or its Facebook page, which has more than 50,000 likes.
The article stems from a story found on the Conservative Daily Post -- which does clarify that it's talking about the House in Montana’s state government -- not the U.S. House of Representatives. The Montana bill affects only state courts, not federal courts throughout the United States, as the article claims.
The Billings Gazette, a real newspaper based in Montana, reported that a bill "to prohibit state courts from applying foreign law" passed the GOP-controlled Montana state House by a 56-44 margin. The bill does not specifically mention Sharia law, though debate of the bills focused on that concern, the Gazette reports. This story goes on to include quotes from state representatives in Montana. This story is true, confirmed by multiple sources, including The Associated Press.
The fake news article from the Conservative Daily Post focused on Montana also includes several inflammatory statements about liberals, Democrats and Muslims.
A similar fake news story, published earlier on a site called "True Trumpers," has this headline: "JUST IN: Sharia Law Finally Banned In All 50 States. Do You Support This?" The article has no text -- just the text of the headline. That site has published more than 300 stories -- many of them fake or sensational. No contact information was available for this website. A ban on Sharia law would have no legal force in any U.S. state, since it is understood in America be a set of private religious tenets (dietary rules, for instance); in some countries ruled by Muslim religious groups, some parts of Sharia law do have legal force.
Experts in fake news at the News Literacy Project say one of the hallmarks of fake news is that it provokes an emotional response.
"On social media, it's so easy to share information with just a click of a button," said Elis Estrada from the News Literacy Project, a nonprofit that teaches students how to identify reliable sources online, in a live stream with ABC News at Thurgood Marshall Academy. "If something strikes an interest or makes you angry or maybe you have a strong emotional reaction to it, you tend to just share it without actually checking it out."
A study by experts at Columbia University and a French research organization, Le Centre pour la Communication Scientifique Directe, shows three in five links on social media were shared without actually opening the link.
ABC News has launched "The Real News About Fake News" powered by Facebook data in which users report questionable stories and misinformation circulating on the platform. The stories will undergo rigorous reporting to determine if the claims made are false, exaggerated or out of context. Stories that editorial partners have also debunked will then appear flagged in your News Feed.
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