What is ‘fake news’? I would think it’s pretty self-explanatory, news that is completely untrue or wholly fabricated. Sound familiar?
Politicians make statements or do something, and this makes its way into the media, be that print, film or otherwise. However, what do you do when the statements that these politicians, those who are supposed to represent and lead us, are fake themselves? The most notable examples of this are, of course, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, but was present throughout the EU referendum. Vague and fear-mongering statements suggesting that immigrants are taking all our jobs, or World War Three would start if you didn’t vote a certain way in the referendum, are helpful to no one. The new populist right is thriving on misinformation and fake news.
“Fake news... can and will affect the public’s opinion”
However, it’s not just politicians creating fake news, through fake or incorrect statements, that we have to worry about. The proliferation of fake news being shared on social media is a huge issue, particularly during the recent presidential election.
The issue is not just that the news is made up, but also that people uncritically believe and share it. Fake news articles, about something that politicians or celebrities have said or done, can and will influence the public’s opinion of said person or the issue that they’re campaigning on.
So, how do we address fake news? Some argue for legislation cracking down on social media sites where fake news is a particular problem (looking at you Facebook). However, there then becomes the issue of stifling opinions and blocking freedom of speech, one of the cornerstones of democracy.
I would argue against specific legislation blocking news from being shared and published online, as this can all too easily become a tool used to prevent unpopular opinions being aired.
However, I do think that there’s an impetus on social media platforms themselves to address the issue of fake news, even if new announcements addressing fake news seem limited or difficult to achieve.
“The best form of defence against fake news is the individual”
Therefore, if legislation is not used and the networks themselves are limited, the best form of defence against fake news is the individual.
It is up to you as a member of society to scrutinise what you’re sharing on social media. Does it seem reliable, and does it come from a reliable source? We need to challenge the news being thrown at us daily, there is always more than one angle, and false or fake news is included in this.
The very nature of democracy depends upon us, as how can we ensure a free and fair, transparent, society if it is muddied by constant untruths?