The deal with Fake News
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
We're sure you've heard about it, but do you really know what Fake News is? 🔍
The Internet has made it very easy for anyone to publish content, regardless of the truth, and it can be a profitable business for some. Not so long ago, we used to get our news from trustworthy sources that had been vetted through traditional channels like reputable newspapers or opinion leaders. In our day and age, the news sources have changed radically, with more and more people using ONLY social media as reference.
Another key factor in the development of Fake News is the speed that information has today and the rapidity with which it can be shared, posted, and reposted – and on such a large scale. Not to mention that it is considered by some “the favorite expression” of Donald Trump, who has had an important role in promoting the notion.
Fake News refers to stories created intentionally to misinform or deceive readers. They are designed to influence people’s views, to push some type of hidden agenda, or to create confusion. There are several ways in which Fake News can present itself: Clickbait, Propaganda, Satire, Mediocre Journalism, Misleading Headlines, Bias News.
Since the term has such an extended meaning, it is also essential to understand where it can come from - and the key here is INTENTION. Is a piece of news intended to misrepresent the truth, or is it more of an opinion piece or a satirical approach or even a plain mistake?
The manner in which information is presented to the public can vary, and one particularly interesting example is satire. Satirical pieces use irony, sarcasm, parody to ridicule public actors, with the intent to shame them for improper behavior and attitudes, as a form of constructive social criticism. Some shows use satire to make people aware of shortcomings or abuses, by presenting them in a new light and creating interest around them.
Across the world, shows like The Daily Show or Saturday Night Live in the US, Mock the Week in UK and Heute Show in Germany, start with presenting real news, but then use humor to give it a new spin. Some of them use sketches that portray some of the most important political figures in humorous situations, and others rely on the charm of comedians or personalities to emphasize specific social and governmental problems.
On the other hand, in Romania, through the years, there have been a few satirical shows that cover political or social issues. One of the longest-running shows is Cronica carcotasilor, followed by Starea natiei, and more recently Show de seară. Many of their materials have come under scrutiny for being too aggressive or too humoristic about serious subjects because satire can be hard to understand by people. Also, they forget that this genre relies on creating strong emotions, even outrage, not necessarily presenting the classical news perspective.
In a world filled with so much information and misinformation at the same time, people often find it hard to distinguish between them. Satirical shows do not claim to be actual news programs, but they can help people better understand or interpret the information they receive from traditional news outlets. The comedic touch can seem to diminish the importance of news stories, at first glance, but combined with sarcasm and exaggeration, it might draw attention to essential subtilities. Satire in this deliberate form can be categorized as Fake News, but not in a sense captured by the more serious conversations, and it could be viewed as an instrument to interpret the news and give it more context.
Whereas satire also aims at entertaining people, other forms of Fake News only take advantage of the consumer for more negative reasons. Clickbait for example uses flashy headlines or photos to attract people to certain websites, for motivations that only serve the source, and not the reader. Propaganda is mostly used in political contexts, when activists want to impose certain beliefs and behaviors for a malicious purpose. Mediocre Journalism and Bias News have a lot in common, and the effects range from cherry picking subjects or facts out of context to deliberately presenting the news in such a light that alters the actual truth.
It has become increasingly hard to protect yourself from misinformation, but a critical mind is all you need in fighting this trend. If you don’t take everything for granted, look beyond the headlines, check the facts and the sources and if you are careful of your own biases when reading any news, then you are sure that you stay away from the influence of Fake News.