More Fake News

While the “fake news crisis” has been identified as an issue contemporary to today, I believe that the topic might be better understood within a grander sociological history. Problems of agreeing on fact and fiction, especially related to science, have troubled humanity since scientific revolutions, accusations of heresy, as long as there is an association between knowledge and power. Facts come with power. News empowers. Fake news, when believed, also empowers. This is, ultimately, why the topic is important–fake news often spurs action, and misinformed actions are often harmful, and rarely helpful.

By this same (over?)simplification of the problem, fake news harms everyone because of the subsequent actions taken. Even those who are not caught by the bait see the repercussions of its hold on others through real consequences. The most publicized of these suspected consequences, of course, is the 2016 election. Contemporary concerns with fake news also derive from the ease of publishing (without vetting) and the power of click-bait (sensational simplified one-liners proving more easy to ingest than more complex news stories). These exaggerate the reach and harm of fake information, and call for new means and methods for slowing its spread and limiting its consequences.

Events such as Fighting Abuse @Scale┬áhave begun to consider how the platforms that enable the spread of fake news can actively try to limit it. Fact-checking articles has been used to pair fake news with real sources, or decrease the visual prominence of articles known to be false. Of course, deleting these articles outright is dangerous territory, as in all of these cases we are trusting the “fact-checkers” to, indeed, represent true facts–a power that suggests in its formation also its potential abuses. It is less common to see events and strategies catered to the end-user–the person scrolling through their Facebook feed–teaching and then trusting them to discern the true from the false.

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