Fake News in Context: Truth and Untruths
Fake News appears to be the most modern of social problems. After bursting onto the scene in 2016, spurred in no small part by then Presidential candidate Trump and his commitment to a post-truth style of politics, Fake News has become a key battleground in many contemporary societies. Nonetheless, in this context it is not always clear what Fake News, as a concept, actually means. In recent academic work, Tandoc Jr., Lim, and Ling (2018) identified a typology of Fake News that covered activities as diverse as legitimate expression (e.g., news parody and satire) to all-out propaganda. Yet, at least from recent political usage, it now seems clear that the concept of Fake News now refers to two different things: (1) an ostensibly “real” news report, which aims to mimic the style and presentation of ordinary news, but which reports on things that did not happen; and (2) an allegation levelled against legitimate media, usually by a politician, aiming to discredit a report that portrays their actions in a negative light. While these two issues are clearly distinct in theory, in practice, the lines between each have always been blurred. It is widely understood in contemporary societies that Type-1 Fake News exists, and therefore, even seemingly legitimate reports must be viewed with caution. However, given the existence of Type-1 Fake News, malicious politicians have been able to confidently, and seemingly legitimately, use Type-2 Fake News allegations to cover up their own misdeeds. Even though the truth may eventually emerge, the confusion caused by Type-2 Fake News allegations may significantly reduce the impact of accurate reports. An assertation that a report is Fake News, therefore, becomes a useful political tool, and in the case of some politicians, has become a standard part of their rhetorical repertoire.
Citation : Alibašić, H. and Rose, J. (2019) Fake News in Context: Truth and Untruths. Public Integrity, DOI: 10.1080/10999922.2019.1622359