Lucas Jackson / REUTERS

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Macedonian teens looking to get paid for ad-clicks, Russian cyber sophisticates apparently looking to tilt the outcome, and some homegrown mood manipulators broadcast outrageous and false stories packaged to look like real news. Their counterfeit posts were nearly indistinguishable from authentic coin and remain so, even in the face of skeptical but impatient fact-checking.

Although much of the establishment has been left wringing its hands about what to do—how to ferret out fake news and those who produce it—there are already tools and systems to help digital investigations and gumshoe reporters connect the dots and discover scams. Metadata—the data about data—can provide a digital signature to identify actors on the Internet. And the Web itself allows us to examine timelines, serialize events, and identify primary sources. Some signatures are harder to find than others, but they are all there; you

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  • MARTIN J. O’MALLEY is a former two-term Governor of Maryland and two-term Mayor of Baltimore. He was a Democratic candidate for president in 2016.
  • PETER L. LEVIN is Adjunct Senior Fellow in the Technology and National Security program at the Center for a New American Security, and CEO of Amida Technology Solutions, Inc.
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