The concept of fake news emerged quickly and became incredibly prominent in the 2016 election. As stories about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump circulated in the news and over social media, Trump’s distaste for criticism from the media transformed into accusations of lies and “fake news.”
While the concept of fabricating stories for entertainment is not anything new, the idea that these fabricated stories can be shared on social media blurs the line between whats true and false. According to an article from BBC,” research [suggests that] an increasing proportion of US adults are getting their news from social media, it’s likely that more and more of us are seeing – and believing – information that is not just inaccurate, but totally made up. ” The spread of falsified information that reinforces peoples’ prejudices allows people to believe whatever they want to believe without really knowing the facts. According to Brooke Binkowski who works at Snopes, a large fact checking website, “There’s a lot of confirmation bias. A lot of people want proof that their world view is the accurate and appropriate one.”
Trump’s social media ban on government agencies affiliated withe science and research is a prime example of this. @AltNatParkService , one of the social media accounts that emerged from this ban tweets, “Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS. You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!” (Reuters) Trump is known for being skeptical of climate change and in taking away these organization’s freedom of speech, he’s enabling other skeptics to believe what they want. Combining fake news and politics is especially frightening, as people’s political decisions can effect more than just their own personal perspectives.
“Trending news stories, both fake and real, buy into what’s called the attention economy, whereby “if people pay attention to a certain topic, more information on that topic will be produced.”(PBS) During the election, politics were all over social media, whether it was a news story or people’s opinion on an issue. News regarding the candidates every move was circulating in the press and over social media. The sheer number of fake news stories made it easier for people to find news about whatever their personal viewpoint or bias was. As many fake news stories are satirical or entertaining in their prose, people are more inclined to remember a fake news story over one thats telling the truth. In addition, they’re more likely to share these stories to their followers on social media because they provide entertainment, and supposedly true information.
The prominence of fake news stories just increases the need for the public to take it upon themselves to stay informed. Last week, the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and Media Fairness Caucus, Rep. Lamar Smith stated, “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” He was criticizing the press for not covering Trump’s attributes. In his 1984-esque statement, Smith shows how important traditional media is going to be in the coming years. The media’s job is to report the truth, and the public needs to figure out how to sift through the onslaught of information provided by social media and find the real story.