Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017 Was the Year of Fake News – It’s Our Fault

The year 2017 is likely to be remembered as the year of fake news.

Politicians, one Tweeter-in-Chief for example, uttered the term "fake news" regularly. 

Social platforms, Facebook and Twitter in particular, were accused of making it easy for "fake news" to spread.

New organizations, major newspapers and national news networks all felt it important to cover the issue of "fake news" regularly.
Ben Franklin - founding father
of fake news

All of which might have left you wondering: How did we get here?

The real answer is that fake news has been around forever. Just ask Benjamin Franklin, who in 1782 made a fake issue of a Boston newspaper which carried a false, but widely circulated, story alleging the British had hired Native Americans to scalp colonists. The purpose of the propaganda was to drum up sympathy for the American Revolutionary cause.

                Almost forever, people have found it "useful" to plant fake news stories to advance a cause. It’s just that in our modern hyper-connected world it is so much easier to have the source of such things become blurred and have the fake news spread much more quickly.

                One other thing that hasn’t changed is that fake news thrives because we are part of the problem:

6 Reasons Fake News is Our Fault
  • We are open to the idea that fantastical stuff is possible: – It’s why certain TV shows and supermarket tabloids such as the Weekly World News have always thrived.
  • We tend to shut out ideas and opinions we disagree with: It’s human nature to not be inclined to listen those who say things we already disagree with.
  • We allow "confirmation bias" to guide our decision making: This bias is where we gravitate to ideas that conform to what we already think. Which leads to …
  • We don’t take the time to verify what we share. You may recall the famous Internet meme that makes fun of this: "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity" – Abraham Lincoln.
  • We often see "others" – those whom we don’t know well – as two-dimensional (and social media encourages this). This makes it easier to demonize and disregard the views of others.
  • Real news and real journalists are a shrinking breed As news consumers we have been less and less willing to pay for our news by buying newspapers or watching TV news. Since nature (and news) abhors a vacuum – something has to fill the gap and that something can be news of spurious origins.

So, now we know why it might be our fault. But did you know that there are different types of fake news?

The infographic below is a starter guide – perhaps you can think of others….

What do you think? Are we to blame for the spread and general occurrence of fake news today?


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