2nd June 2017 - Is fake new old news?
It’s undoubtable that reporting and journalism have changed – thanks to social media and the 24-hour news cycle, anyone can get a message to the press instantly.
This has resulted in a revolution in getting up-to-date information to the masses, whether it’s the latest travel information or something more important, like evacuating coastal regions in response to devastating weather.
But a more-damaging outcome of this is the spread of fake news.
The term ‘fake news’ really came to prominence during the 2016 US Presidential Election, with Donald Trump throwing the term around at rallies while complaining about the media bias against him. He used it regularly when he was criticised by political commentators about something he was alleged to have said or done. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, was also regularly targeted by fake news stories, including one alleging that she was selling weapons to ISIS. Since the result of the US election, many parties have claimed that fake news was one of the biggest reasons for Trump winning, with the ease of spreading stories on Facebook and how few people actually check the facts of these stories being central to this.
Taking the recent attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester as an example, it is clear that fake news can have a devastating and terrifying effect on both those involved and the wider public. As reported by Buzzfeed, prominent news outlets such as the Daily Express and Daily Star ran articles based on false information spread on social media, including fictitious tweets about a gunman at Royal Oldham Hospital after the attack.
Although the online articles have since been updated to reflect the facts, at the time, they caused panic: the police attended and confirmed that there was no such gunman – again using social media to get that message out to people.
Pictures of children who were nowhere near Manchester at the time were posted online as among those missing, worrying their families and distracting from the real searches for missing children.
Perhaps this demonstrates the need for better policing by the social media platforms and for us as the users of these websites to consider what we are liking, sharing and commenting on.
Trolling appears to be part and parcel of the Internet, so it seems inevitable that there will always be those who want to draw attention to themselves by creating sensational stories and preying on the interests and vulnerabilities of others. But I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the days when journalists took stringent measures to check the credibility of their sources or to find out information by being on the ground themselves.
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