In the news today, it has emerged that Russian president Putin once again authorized pro-Trump propaganda during the 2020 election campaign. According to a US government report, Moscow authorized "misleading or unsubstantiated allegations" about Joe Biden, in a manner eerily similar to those following the aftermath of the 2016 election. It is becoming clear that so-called "fake news" is showing no signs of stopping as a political and social weapon – and the US thus far does not have an effective strategy to address it.
The concept of fake news emerged as a way to describe fabricated news stories that were published as propaganda, or for the purpose of derailing real news reporting. The term was first used in 2016 by the media as a way to describe reports of Hillary Clinton’s ill-health, or her involvement in a pedophile ring, which were fabricated solely to disparage her reputation. This was an example of fake news as propaganda – the goal was not to influence the election, but simply to tarnish a candidate’s reputation.
The term began to be used more widely in the wake of the 2016 election. Many believed that fabricated news stories had influenced the election result. These stories were published by Russian trolls, and presented as true and factual, despite their complete lack of truth. A good example was the story of a sex trafficking ring run out of a pizza restaurant in Washington DC. The story was ridiculous, but it garnered so much attention that it had to be addressed by Hillary Clinton herself. This was an example of fake news as a weapon of disinformation – a way to spread confusion and doubt about real news stories.
In 2017, the notion of fake news was taken a step further when the Trump administration claimed that legitimate media outlets were publishing fake news. In response, the term "fake news" has been used by the Trump administration as a way to discredit news stories that they don’t like. Trump has accused CNN, The New York Times, and other outlets of producing fake news. Trump doesn’t use the term fake news as a way of refuting fabricated stories, but as a way of discrediting media coverage of his administration. This is an example of fake news as a weaponized term – a way to accuse the media of bias, and discredit them in the public eye.
The idea of fake news has come under fire from many sides. Proponents of Trump’s war on fake news have argued that the term is overused, and has lost its meaning as a result. Critics of Trump have argued that the term is being used as a way to discredit the media, and that it should not be used to discredit stories that Trump dislikes. If the term is to be used, it should be used in a way that is consistent, and honest – to describe fabricated news stories, and not simply stories that you dislike. The term has been used by many different people in many different ways – it is important that we all work together to agree on a single definition of fake news, and that this definition is used consistently by all parties.
Now that you have a good understanding of the origins and evolution of the term fake news, let’s discuss some of the ways that we can combat it. In the future, we should expect more and more fabricated news stories to come from sources outside the US. This is a problem that has many facets – and it will take a lot of work to come up with a strategy that works.
A common approach to fighting fake news is to simply ignore it. This is the approach that Google and Facebook have taken to dealing with fake news. In essence, the idea is that if the story isn’t getting any views online, it will eventually just fade away. This approach is frustrating, but it is also understandable. Fake news has been shown to be a way of influencing elections – if it is not seen by the public, it cannot have an influence. This is the approach that the US has taken to dealing with fake news. This approach is as much philosophical as it is practical – in a free and democratic society, it is important that we give the public the right to make their own decisions without being influenced by stories that are fake.
A more proactive approach to fighting fake news involves the use of fact-checking services. The goal of fact-checking is to make a comprehensive list of all the claims that a particular story makes, and then review these claims to determine if they are true. If a story is found to be incorrect, it is flagged as a fake story – and then it can be removed from the public eye. This approach is sensible, but it is not a complete solution to the problem of fake news. The vast majority of fake news originates from sources outside of the US, and the US has no control over these sources. These fake news stories still spread into the US, and can still influence voters.
The other problem with fact checking is that fake news still has an effect on readers even after the facts have been refuted. Some have likened fake news to a dog whistle in the sense that readers know on some level that the content contains false information, but it serves as a way of connecting with other holders of fringe political views. Taking this analogy further, I would instead liken fake news to a snuffle food mat – people consuming fake news do it to satisfy a deeper psychological need to search for truth in places others overlook, and get a certain sense of satisfaction in having found something nourishing that others have missed.
A third approach to fighting fake news involves the use of artificial intelligence. This is a much more difficult solution, but it is also much more effective. It involves the creation of a machine learning model that can identify fake news based on its content. Fake news stories have some common features – these features can be identified by a machine learning model, which can then be used to flag fake news stories. This approach is much more effective than fact-checking, but it is also much more difficult.
The best way to fight fake news is to improve education. The internet has created a huge gap in the level of knowledge that we have about the world. Many people have never left their country, or their state, and do not know much about the outside world. Many of these people have no interest in learning about the outside world, and would rather get their information from a source that they trust. This is why fake news is so effective – it is easy to trust a source that is located in your own country, and that shares your own ideals. The best way to fight fake news is to improve education – to teach people how to identify fake news, and to teach them how to find high-quality news sources.
So far, the US has mostly opted to simply ignore it – but this approach is frustrating. A pro-active approach may be more effective, but it is also more difficult. The best approach is to improve education – to teach people how to think critically, and how to identify fake news stories.