The development of the fake news phenomenon is causing society to question fact from fiction. The problem with fake news is that it comes from multiple sources, from different actors, and with different motives. These include but are not limited to (The Telegraph (2018):
- Commercially-driven sensational content
- Nation state-sponsored misinformation
- Highly-partisan news site
- Social media itself
- Satire or parody
But the concept of ‘fake news’ is not new, according to Merriam-Webster. As far back at the 16th century, the term used was ‘false’ news. The word ‘fake’ is relatively new.
So why is the term ‘fake news’ now becoming a popular topic of discussion?
The Fake News Phenomenon
‘Fake news’ is getting more and more attention with the start of being able to share information quickly and its ability to influence public opinion. As a result, readers are struggling with what is considered fake news vs. fact-supported and verifiable news (News Media Alliance 2017).
Before the internet, distributing information was more expensive, building trust took years, and there were simpler definitions of what was considered news and media (The Telegraph 2018). Today, the public has access to digital venues where news/information can be found and shared easily at no cost.
So where did the fake news phenomenon start? The argument is, the explosion of the fake news phenomenon began with one tweet from President Trump made on January 10, 2017 (BBC 2018).
However, BBC also reports that it was actually Hilary Clinton who first used the term in a speech on December 8, 2016. In that speech, Hilary Clinton mentioned “the epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year. It’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences. This isn’t about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk… lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days, to do their jobs, contribute to their communities.”
So with the explosion of the fake news phenomenon, how is the world, today, defining “fake” news?
Definition of Fake News
The Collins English Dictionary named the term “fake news” as Word of the Year in 2017. It defines “fake news” as “ false, often sensations, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.”
In comparison, Merriam-Webster says they are unlikely to add a definition because the meaning is self-explanatory. (Time 2017). The Oxford Dictionary is also keeping a close eye on the phrase and has not broken out their definition-writing pens yet because the meaning is still evolving (Time 2017).
Avoiding Fake News
You can avoid falling prey to ‘fake’ news by using these useful tips from Facebook:
- Be skeptical of headlines.
- Look closely at the URL.
- Check the source.
- Watch for unusual formatting.
- Preview the photos.
- Check the dates.
- Look at the evidence.
- Look at other reports.
- Is the story a joke?
- Some stories are intentionally false.