The internet has enabled a whole new way to publish, share and consume information. It has allowed the introduction of thousands of different media websites and social media pages. A lot of the news we consume online, mainly in our social media feeds, is not true, a lot of it is fake news. Fake news is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers.
The term ‘Fake News’ was established by a media editor at Buzzfeed, Craig Silverman, during mid-2016. Silverman began noticing dozens of completely made up stories that seemed to originate from one small Eastern European town.
They proceeded to investigate more fake news stories and ended up identifying at least 140 fake news stories, which were pulling huge numbers on Facebook. This was around the time of the US election, in which many the articles were written about the two main candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Stories were written with headlines such as “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President” and “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide”.
Both Stories were false. This was the beginning of the modern life of the phrase “fake news”.
The motive behind a lot of Fake news stories is to gain viewers to the website or page and try and influence the audience to certain beliefs. As explained earlier, the US election cause a flood of fake news stories all over the internet, because people wanted to influence other users into voting for the electorate that they believed were better suited to win.
Below are two examples of fake news stories.
In October 2017, a publisher of a blog site name FreedomJunkshun, released an article titled “BREAKING: Black Soldier Killed in Niger Was A Deserter”, The story was accusing US soldier (David Johnson) of fleeing battle during an ISIS ambush, the article also stated that “Mr Johnson was not the perfect soldier that his mother wants us to believe”. This being Fake News, the real story is that four US soldiers, including Johnson were ambushed by ISIS, Johnson fled to seek cover and himself and the three other Soldiers were all killed in battle.
The Department of defence immediately contradicted the Fake news story and the publisher later apologised for disrespecting a deceased soldier. There was no legal action taken on this story. The unethical motive behind this story was to pander racists.
If legal action was taken, the blog site could’ve been sued for defamation, but as the site didn’t really have a huge following, the news wasn’t vastly known or spread.
An example of a fake news story that did go to court was the Rebel Wilson Story, where she sued Bauer Media for Defamation after releasing false stories about her upbringing. She was paid more than 4.5 million in damages. Bauer Media published this story to improve its circulation, increase views in expectation of high profits.
There is always a motive behind fake news stories, and a lot of time people are easy to believe everything they read, we as consumers should always research details of news before we create our own opinion.