Fake news is a major buzz term that’s all over the media at the moment, but where did it come from and why is it news?
Although the term has been banded around in media circles for some time, it really caught on when Donald Trump began accusing various news outlets of publishing fake news during his press conferences.
Fake news has had a foothold in the media ever since and many commentators have quickly adopted the term to describe anything they disagree with. Things are now going a stage further with fake news becoming the subject of various advertising campaigns.
In the US, a TV ad features a graphic of the President’s successes during his first 100 days in office and blames ‘fake news media’ for not reporting all his supposed achievements. The ad shows the faces of well-known news readers superimposed over the words ‘fake news’ but, perhaps unsurprisingly, lots of the major TV networks have refused to ridicule themselves by showing the advert.
Now this week Facebook has launched an advertising campaign in the UK’s national print media (seems ironic but that’s a whole other post!) highlighting how to spot fake news on social media.
Whilst you’d think it would be straightforward for an organisation with Facebook’s resources and technology to stamp out fake news, that’s obviously not the case. These ads can now be seen in the likes of The Times, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph - although it seems unlikely that your average Telegraph reader will want to admit they could be sucked into a nonsense story that they see on Facebook!
Fake news and the use of propaganda, in everything from wars to elections, is certainly nothing new. What’s different nowadays though, is that rather than being state sponsored, it’s often individuals holed up in their bedrooms with only their imagination and photoshop skills for company, that are creating these made up stories that can spread like wild fire across social media networks.
As well as attempting to shape opinions, the craziest stories that reach a big enough audience will translate into advertising revenue, and by the time the social networks have caught on and closed them down, the creators are already moved on and are making more noise via a new outlet.
When it comes to spotting fake news, the general rules are to view anything that sounds unbelievable with scepticism, cross-reference stories against reputable news outlets and look closely at URLs and websites to check their genuine news sites.
However, in an era where it’s becoming the norm to expect the unexpected, we have a hugely fertile breeding ground for fake news, with relatively few barriers for entry, so the problem is likely to get even worse before it gets better.
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