What is Fake News?

The term “fake news” holds many meanings to many people. For some, fake news is news or content that in its entirety is satire or hoax. For others fake news is a label for news, blogs or editorials in which only portion of the content is inaccurate or misleading. Finally, some call fact-checked news fake because they don’t agree with it. TruthSetter.com is the first platform that allows for true civil discourse for all forms of fake news.

Satire

Of course, if the intent of the author is for the content they are creating to be false and there is some benefit to the author its likely the content is satire content. Examples of satire content are available on sites like The Onion. Satire content is entirely false and often sensational, spread or hyped through social media, often Twitter or Facebook. Satire content can be flagged easily in the TruthSetter platform by simply adding an article from the home page and then selecting the “flag” for satire. Confirmation is still required by other authorized users.

Hoax

An article that is a hoax is entirely fake just like satire, but its intent is to deliberately mislead the reader into thinking that it is real or factual news. Again, similar to satire, one can make money on hoaxes through click-through and other forms of online advertising. Hoaxes are the most popular forms of fake news on the Internet today since people are able to profit from spreading them.

News Mistakes or Errors

Another type of “fake news” is simple errors. The term fake is often expressed when the news is deliberately misleading. However, simple errors like names, addresses, ages, titles, places, and other forms of errors are often published. A study in 2005 by Dr. Scott R. Maier found that “61% of local news and feature stories [were inaccurate] and is among the highest reported [inaccuracies] in nearly seventy years of accuracy research”.  He cited many reasons including “newspaper reporters, though more highly educated and professional, are perhaps stretched thin by staff reductions and other pressures brought on by media consolidation and Wall Street profit demands. Copy editors, the last line of defense against newspaper errors, could be missing mistakes as production demands impede careful review of articles before they go to press.” Whatever the reason news reporters are human and not immune to mistakes.

Anonymous Sources

Another argument for fake news is the prevalence of anonymous or unnamed sources. In Matt Duffy’s 2014 paper he explains how journalistic norms have changed and analysis “suggests that abandoning the independent verification requirement is counterproductive for the profession.” Other policy changes over time reflect a change in ethics, “while earlier journalism textbooks and codes of ethics required that information from unnamed sources be corroborated, most of the sources in this study eventually dropped this requirement. None of the primary or secondary sources consulted for this study noted this significant change of standards.”

Misleading or Sensational News

Finally, the most difficult news to both identify and fact-check is based on misleading or sensational content. In 2017, news titles drive page views and the story behind the story is more important than the content in the story. Driven by ratings and unique visitor page views the large news organizations must compete with a growing number of individual distributors and content creators. It is difficult to compete with an individual or group that might not follow recognized journalistic ethics. I believe this is root of the changes that Matt Duffy refers to in his paper. This ethical slide promises a day when the  story is more important than the facts.  I will back up this premise in my next blog. Stay tuned…and until then keep reviewing.

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