The Pandora’s box of hate, misinformation, and conspiracy theories that Donald Trump helped open has become a problem in the Black media space, where ambitious hip-hop bloggers and influencers have infected the culture.

What used to simply feel like passive red carpet gossip (looking at you, Wendy Williams) has turned into massive misinformation campaigns fueled by social media trolling and obsessive stan cultures.

In recent weeks, there’s been a troubling pattern of prominent hip-hop bloggers brazenly disseminating misinformation without being held accountable.

In January, Cardi B won a seven-figure decision in her defamation lawsuit against YouTuber Tasha K (whose real name is LaTasha Kebe) for knowingly spreading lies about the rapper on her million-subscriber “UnWine With Tasha K” channel.

“Kebe published multiple false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff, including that Plaintiff was a prostitute, that Plaintiff was a user of cocaine, that Plaintiff had and still has herpes,” the lawsuit read, calling those “harmful and disgusting lies.”

Since losing the suit, Tasha K, who says she’ll appeal the verdict, has doubled down by keeping the defamatory YouTube videos up on her page (Cardi B on Thursday asked a judge to gag the blogger and force her to remove those videos) while openly talking about how she doesn’t intend to pay the $4 million judgement against her and bizarrely insinuating that a “machine” driven by “corporate interests” including “prostitution, drug use, promiscuity,” and the “glorification” of violence had “tried to squeeze us for everything.”

So we’re supposed to believe that a woman who falsely accused someone she didn’t know of illegal drug use, prostitution, and potentially spreading an STI is the victim of “corporate interests?” Bullshit.

She’s hardly the only bullshitter talking darkly about supposed conspiracies. Controversial blogger DJ Akademiks has made a career by using his now massive online following to instigate real-life drama. After first making a name for himself for over-sensationalizing, mocking, and at times glorifying gun violence in Chicago on his viral YouTube channel, “The War In Chiraq,” DJ Akademiks has gone on to reach mainstream stardom through his massive social media following and collaborations with Complex Networks and Joe Budden.

In February, the blogger reported that the DNA of rapper Tory Lanez, who has pleaded not guilty to allegedly shooting Megan Thee Stallion in the foot while yelling “dance, bitch” in 2020, had not been found on the gun used in the shooting.

“It was revealed in court few moments ago that Tory Lanez DNA WAS NOT found on the weapon in the Meg Thee Stallion case,” DJ Akademiks wrote in a now-deleted tweet to his over 1.3 million followers.

The problem? Nothing had been “revealed.” In fact, DJ Akademiks posted his tweet before the court session, where no such bombshell information was delivered, had even begun.

“I know some of yall blogs on payroll but please dont get sued trying to create a hate campaign. Be a real journalist and post FACTS,” Megan Thee Stallion posted on social media at the time.

“Yall got breaking news 15 minutes before court started and nobody has even been called in yet?” she continued. “Yall tryna win a social media campaign, this is my real life! Yall tryna get retweets spreading false narratives! @iamakademiks why are you lying? What did you gain?”

DJ Akademiks then insisted that he’d seen these documents, which have never been made public, with his “own eyes” and that they were “inconclusive in finding” Tory Lanez’s DNA.

What made this situation particularly frustrating is that it’s not the first time a blogger pushed misinformation about this case. In January of 2021, the popular female rapper had to denounce viral tweets posted by hip-hop blog FuciousTv claiming that “according to the #LosAngeles County Superior Court website, the charges against #ToryLanez in the July 2020 incident has been or dropped. The website indicates that there are no upcoming trial dates after the hearing that was held yesterday. Story developing.”

That misinformation led fans of Lanez to swarm Megan Thee Stallion online and try to gaslight her consistent account of the shooting.

In both of these “breaking news” moments, men used their platforms to try and discredit a female victim—and when it came out that what they’d reported was wrong, they doubled down.

It’s a problem across the hip-hop blogosphere. On Feb. 22, two days after Queen Elizabeth tested positive for COVID-19, Hollywood Unlocked, a site known for salacious celebrity gossip, blasted out to its its 2.8 million Instagram followers an “HU Exclusive: Queen Elizabeth Dead,” adding that “sources close to the Royal Kingdom notified us exclusively that Queen Elizabeth has passed away.”

What “sources” would ever refer to Buckingham Palace as the “Royal Kingdom,” and why on Earth would they go to Jason Lee, whose fame took off after starring in the reality show Love & Hip-Hop: Hollywood?

But Hollywood Unlocked founder Lee didn’t back down when other news outlets reported otherwise.

“We don’t post lies and I stand by my sources,” Lee said on Twitter about the story after a fake Twitter account had issued an apology.

But as days passed without official word from Buckingham Palace, Hollywood Unlocked published a post titled “Fact Check: 10 Reasons We Believed Queen Elizabeth Was Dead” that acknowledged “the confusion our original post has caused” and then painfully tried to explain it away (“Breaking the news that Britain’s longest-reigning monarch has passed is no simple matter…) before admitting at the very end that they’d simply been wrong. It’s not until that final paragraph that the “fact check” acknowledges the queen is, in fact, alive:

​​“Although I’ve never been wrong when breaking a story because this involves The Queen this is one time I would want to be,” Lee clarified Thursday afternoon. “And based on Wednesday’s report from the Palace, I can say my sources got this wrong and I sincerely apologize to The Queen and the Royal Family.”

Black communities deserve more access to fair and reliable news that’s not being tainted by biased media personalities who are trying to capitalize off of trends, rather than inform the public. Those figures have flourished because of the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion at mainstream media outlets, a problem in urgent need of repair and one reason why “alternative” sources have flourished. But this misinformation is a reminder of why it makes sense to trust journalists—not bloggers, gossipers, or influencers—to verify the news before reporting it, and not to circulate reports before they’ve been confirmed.

People putting out false news, and those circulating it, are threatening to ruin the culture as we know it.

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