A form of news consisting of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional news media or online social media—that’s the definition of fake news by Wikipedia.
The way most people use it nowadays, in my observation, defies this definition. In short, people use the phrase “fake news” when it contains information they don’t like or don’t agree with.
The most famous (or infamous) user of the phrase is none other than Donald Trump.
The president provided a widely cited example of this interpretation in a tweet on May 9, 2018:
“The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake).”
“Fake” to Trump is any news that does not show him in a favorable light, or which he simply dislikes.
Here at the Northwest Asian Weekly, we have been accused of shoddy journalism and being “fake news” simply because—again, the readers didn’t agree with what we were reporting. It’s as if some readers think we make sh** up and print it. We don’t. Yes, we make mistakes. But we don’t deliberately print information that is false or inaccurate, and we are more than happy to make a correction when called out. News media in general are vilified. Many in the general public do not know the difference between a commentary (opinion) and actual news.
A 2018 study done by MIT on fake news found that a false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story. A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject— including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best.
Humans are biased to look for information that confirms what they already believe.
Gone are the days of getting news from only one source like the beloved Walter Cronkite.
Today, most people get a fair amount of news from Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Google. These are technology companies—not news outlets.
Their goal is to maximize the time you spend on their sites and apps, to generate advertising revenue. Their algorithms use your browsing history to show you news you’ll agree with and like, keeping you engaged for as long as possible.
Instead, visit trusted news websites directly— The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Reuters, to name a few. These organizations actually produce news, not just content that’s been curated for you.
Please stop to think and consider the source before retweeting or sharing news on social media.
Don’t be like Donald Trump. Don’t label everything “fake news” just because you don’t like it.
Happy news reading.