Everyone living in this era has heard this word at least once. Now that various media have developed and anyone can easily disseminate information, the world is full of fake news. Fake news has become a global problem.
What is fake news?
I’m sure you can come up with specific examples of fake news like the 2016 U.S. presidential election and many other fake news stories. More specifically, the fake news that the Pope has expressed support for Trump. However, what is the definition of it?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it has a meaning like this.
“false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke”Cambridge Dictionary: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/fake-news
As this dictionary means, fake news is misinformation. Misinformation would be of no use to us.
So why does fake news spread to people? There is a very simple answer to that question. That’s because there are people who benefit from it. There are many theories about the classification of those who benefit, but I would like to focus on two. It’s who benefits politically and who benefits financially.
- people who benefit politically
This is typified by the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Various fake news stories were circulated, bringing the term “fake news” to the public’s attention.
- people who benefit financially
People can make money by generating fake news.
Here is a brief video from the BBC explaining the mechanism.
According to this, the key to making money from fake news is advertising. You create fake news that gets people’s attention, which is spread and viewed by many people. Then, advertising revenue is generated.
The main fake news that circulated on the Internet during the U.S. presidential election, for example, went something like this.
①Fake news related to politics
- The Pope has officially declared his support for Trump.
- Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton sold arms to the terrorist organization IS (self-proclaimed Islamic State).
- Clinton intends to start a civil war if Trump wins.
Such startling information flooded social media. It is natural to be surprised, and it would be wrong not to be. After all, they are all “fake”.
Fake news is simply “fake”. However, when it appears on social media, it is passed on in the guise of “news.”
Buzzfeed, a U.S. online media, analyzed the most shared, liked, and other reactions on Facebook in the three months before the presidential election.
The top 20 articles published by major media outlets received approximately 7,367,000 engagements. In contrast, the top 20 fake news articles received approximately 8,771,000 engagements. This means that fake news was more widely spread.
Since most of the top fake news items shared in this way were anti-Democrat and anti-Clinton, it is said that “fake news influenced the U.S. presidential election. Of course, the extent of the impact is debatable.
Although it is debatable, fake news has reached the stage of influencing politics and actual society.
Have you heard of the conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate?” The idea is that pizza parlors in the nation’s capital, Washington, are hubs for pedophilia and child prostitution and that Hillary Clinton is involved in it. This conspiracy theory, spread online by fake news, has evolved into a real shooting incident. The U.S. mainstream media has concluded at every turn that the scandal is ” not true” and “a rumor. Fortunately, no one was injured in this incident, but one wrong move could have resulted in deaths. Fake news was a major factor in this incident of this incident.
②Fake news related to making money
Here’s how people are profiting from fake news, with specific examples
Do you know a Macedonian boy who made money with fake news？
Dimitri（not his real name）, 18 years old Macedonian, claims to have made $60,000 in the past six months from the fake news related to the U.S. presidential election. NBC News shows how teens are spending big on cars, clubs, and real estate, profiting from the empire of lies that has rocked the presidential election. He was not the only one who made money from fake news about the presidential election, dozens of other teenagers did the same. In the small Macedonian town of Beres, at least 300 residents posted fake news articles on their websites and made a lot of money during the presidential election from advertising revenue generated by the creation and spread of the articles.
Dimitri is not concerned about the possibility that he and other fake news creators may have influenced the election results. The extent to which these fake news stories affected the outcome of the election is debatable, but it is clear that the world was disrupted by fake news.
Also, there were female writers in Macedonia. The woman, Tamara（not her real name）, began her career as a fake news writer through a friend. She was in her mid-20s at the time. She, created and spread various fake news stories like Dimitori. However, her mindset when she was editing misinformation was different from Dimitri’s. She was a liberal and her political views were the opposite of the fake news she was writing about. She describes her feelings like this.
For her, creating fake news is something she would rather not do. But she still does it for the money. That’s how much money is made in fake news!
What the two Macedonians have in common is that they are creating fake news for money. Regardless of their interest in the content of fake news, they are helping to spread misinformation for money. Also, it is important to note here that these fake news stories are not consumed within Macedonia. Dimitri was dealing with the U.S. presidential election, and the fake news they created is spread all over the world. This suggests that fake news is a global issue.
How to deal with it
One way to counter fake news is through fact-checking by fact-checking organizations. Fact-checking is the activity of examining information, news, and discourse spread in society to determine whether they are based on facts, and then turning the process into articles to share accurate information with people. In a word, it is “verification of authenticity. Fact-checking has a principle of “nonpartisanship and impartiality.”
This is the most important concept in IFCN’s charter, which sets forth international standard fact-checking principles.
While it is valid for an individual to fact-check all information they encounter, there are limits. Therefore, having a fact-checking organization in the world will make it much easier for people to make informed choices.
Of course, there are also fact-checks that individuals can do. There are many things you can do, such as checking the originator of the information, examining other articles written on the same subject, and noting the difference between fact and opinion. In addition to fact-checking, it is also effective not spreading information easily. Spreading information without thinking it may sometimes lead to the spread of fake news! Do you know that Twitter has a function to prevent that?
When people try to retweet an article without reading it, Twitter encourages them to read the article. This has shown great effectiveness since the testing phase. This functionality has resulted in 40% more articles being opened.
Fake news is spreading like this globally because there are people who benefit from it. It can be political or financial. And fake news is a global issue, just as fake news of the U.S. presidential election was made in Macedonia. That is why it is important to have an institution to judge the truth of information and to improve the media literacy of each individual. Through the efforts of organizations and individuals, fake news will weaken its spread and influence. The important thing to remember is that whoever benefits from believing and spreading fake news is someone other than you.
Before you leave this page, why don’t you play this game?
In this game, you are the one who spreads fake news. When you play this game, you must put aside your sense of ethics and play as a media person with malicious intent. Your job is to gain as many followers as possible while slowly building your fake credibility as a news site. Scientists who helped develop the game found that playing this game improved their ability to find manipulative techniques in social media posts, increased their confidence in finding such skills, and decreased their willingness to share manipulative content with people in their networks.
Please feel free to comment with your thoughts on the fake news and how you feel about playing the game. You are also welcome to share your comments on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.