Who hasn’t heard of fake news? It’s the talk of the town. This concept is far from new. Fake news has been around since 44 BC, with Octavian’s campaign of misinformation against Mark Antony. When the printing press was invented in 1439, there was no journalism ethics code of conduct to follow so they printed anything. Yellow journalism, which arose in 1898, and political propaganda go hand-in-hand with fake news. U.S. History is no stranger to this concept of fake news.
What is the definition of fake news, one might ask? One comes from the President. He uses it to discredit reporting that he doesn’t like/agree with. In other situations, fake news is formed when con-artists insert false articles into national conversations through software that runs through social media accounts. Don’t get this confused with satirical news. This is a form of comedy meant to inform viewers/share commentary about real news, usually highlighting ridiculous stories. It has a comedic effect, most of the time. Saturday Night Live would be an example of satirical news.
Now you might be asking, “But how do these ridiculous (but non-satirical) stories reach so many people? And why do people believe them?!” The answer is bots. Bots are computer software used to make an article appear more popular than it really is. Fake social accounts pick these articles up and automatically like/retweet the message. Once the post reaches a high volume of people, the “important” people start to see it and react. That is how fake news is spread. These people who “took the bait” and fell for the fake news become the new bots. The cycle continues.
An average “fake news columnist” makes $10,000 a month– by making money on ads with each click. That’s crazy, but very possible with all of the people reading these articles. A study shows that most people will believe almost anything in a format that is news-oriented and looks “official”. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are on top of this. After the election, they changed their programs, making it harder for fake sources to populate their streams. Google came out with the following statement, “Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property”.
Which political party is more to blame: Republicans or Democrats? Honestly, it’s pretty equal. Regardless of party, people get sucked into these lies, whether through their Facebook stream or by advertisement. Both parties are affected. The right-leaning believers tend to be in their 40’s and 50’s. The left-leaning believers are mostly affluent and college-educated. So in other words, watch out.
“Never in human history has more information been available to more people. But it’s also true that never in history has more bad information been available to more people. And once it’s online, it is “news” forever.” – Scott Pelley