“Fake news” is a term that has risen to prominence since the end of 2016 and has carried on into the early parts of 2017. But why has this suddenly become so important to politics when it has been around for so long? This article will seek to Put it Simply. The media and mass news is arguably the main provider of information to the entire nation. Though it cannot be said that news articles are always 100% accurate and you can guarantee that there is almost always a form of bias, we can be assured that they are semi-accurate.
Until recently, the establishment of false news statements and articles had never been an issue. You would often find on occasion a “troll” article which seems to be quite harmless and usually has an intention to humour. Have you ever logged into Facebook to see articles such as ‘Jeremy Corbyn rides pet horse through the floor of the Commons’? - Clearly, this is a fake article. Articles such as this do not tend to be an issue as they are easily verifiable.
Why has it become an issue?
There have been some false news articles that have caused problems. For example, the Jewish family that was forced to leave their hometown due to false reports that had blamed them for the cancellation of a school Christmas play. The report claimed that they had complaints about the line “God bless us, everyone.” This is just one of many cases of “fake news”. The difference with this type of fake news is that is difficult for the general public to receive a first-person account of a situation and therefore it is easy to believe what is being read.
Fake News and the Trump Presidency
Since the victory of President-elect Donald Trump, there has been a lot of focus on the emergence of “fake news” and how Donald Trump may have used it to aid towards his electoral victory. During the election period, Trump was seen to be sharing numerous articles that were later confirmed to be false such as an article which featured a picture of an African American family claiming that they will be supporting him. This was later confirmed by the family themselves that this picture was false.
Even since the turn of the year, Trump has accused many news publications of releasing fake news. As lately as Wednesday, he accused NBC of releasing a false article regarding Ford GM and Lockheed as he took to twitter to say “Ask top CEO's of those companies for real facts. Came back because of me!”
It has now been argued that a democracy can only be genuine with their decision as long as they are voting on the basis of facts and truth that has been provided by the media. The infiltration of “fake news” can easily distort the views of the electorate and can make us call into question the legitimacy of electoral victories.
Even more so with the increasing use of different social media sites such as ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’, it has made it that much easier for false news articles to be disguised as real articles. The problem is that if the social networks begin to regulate articles being published, it becomes a censorship issue. So how can we limit the publication of fake news and data?
Though there is not anything set in stone, there are potential solutions that could be enforced to regulate "fake news".
- Facebook has announced new tools to be introduced in Germany to combat news stories that are untrue or have been fabricated entirely. If seen as successful, we could see other social media handles following suit.
- Expand the real news ecosystem as much as possible, by training people in how to do that work and by strengthening the institutions that will publish and broadcast it.
- Education surrounding “fake news”. In this modern age, media literacy is essential. A group of students from Stanford has found that students are weak at discerning fake news. Educating young people in ways of which they can spot a real news article could decrease the number of fake articles being shared. Here at Talk Politics, we have our Politics Put Simply and Mythbusters series to educate voters.
If these resolutions do come to fruition, then it could restore faith in the news we receive on a daily basis. Improvement in this field could help the electorate to vote based on legitimate facts and not news that has been falsified.