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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Welcome to our sad, new, distorted reality — the explosion of fake: fake videos, fake people on Facebook, and daily cries of "fake news."

Driving the news: This week we reached a peak fake, with Facebook saying it had deleted 2.2 billion fake accounts in three months, a fake video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi going viral, and Trump going on a fresh "fake news" tear.

  • A Pew survey last year found that two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites came from non-human users (bots or other automated accounts), per Axios' Neal Rothschild.

Why it matters: This is just a small taste of our unfiltered future. It's only going to get easier to generate fake audio, fake videos and even fake people — and to spread them instantly and virally. 

  • Fake polls, fake experts, fake fundraisers and even fake think tanks are proliferating.

More than half of internet traffic comes from bots, not people, in this astonishing tour of our fake world:

Fake influence has become the result of an internet that's filled with fake measurement and personas:

  • Dozens of content farms and internet hacks make money selling or amplifying fake video views or follower accounts to politicians and influencers.
  • Distorted images can make any crowd size look bigger or smaller than reality.
  • Around the world, fake polls are being set up to distort elections.

The hottest political tactic this cycle is forcing a candidate or politicians to defend themselves against a hoax or fake news story. 

  • On the campaign trail, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was falsely accused of sexual assault by right-wing trolls.
  • Kamala Harris has found herself caught up in a storm of fake news memes questioning her identity and race.

Fake fundraising is becoming easier. The inability to vet real personas online makes it hard to be discerning about how money is transacted on the internet. 

  • A California con man set up bogus websites for Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke to defraud donors, NBC reported in March.

Be smart: Fake reports, fake stories and fake personas have existed on television, radio and print for years. But as the N.Y. Times notes: "Legislators have failed to stay on top of social media platforms, with their billions of hard-to-track users from all over the world."

What's next: The inevitable result of a fake information universe is real crisis manufactured by fake news.

  • Misinformation about vaccines has led to an alarming number of measles outbreaks.
  • And fake online pharmacies have led to a spike in deaths.

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Go deeper

41 mins ago - Health

CDC panel endorses Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12-to 15-year-olds, following the FDA's emergency use authorization.

Why it matters: Approval from the CDC panel was the final step needed before inoculations could be offered at any vaccination site for this age group.

  • Pfizer has said its vaccine is 100% effective at protecting against COVID-19 in a trial of more than 2,200 children between the ages of 12 and 15.

GOP lawmakers downplay Capitol riot at House hearing

Photo: Jon Cherry via Getty Images

Republican members of Congress sought to minimize the Capitol insurrection at a House hearing on Wednesday, with statements calling pro-Trump rioters "patriots" and other lawmakers falsely denying demonstrators were supporters of the former president at all.

Driving the news: The hearing comes shortly after House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from leadership over her criticism of former President Trump's actions leading up to and on Jan. 6.

McConnell, McCarthy say 2017 tax law is "red line" in infrastructure talks

The top Republicans in the House and Senate told reporters after meeting with President Biden at the White House that "there is a bipartisan desire to get an outcome" on an infrastructure package, but stressed that revisiting the 2017 tax cuts is a "red line."

Why it matters: Wednesday marked the first time that Biden has hosted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the White House.