Fake News and Its Impact on the American Society
The media is charged with the responsibility of ensuring it informs, educates as well as entertains members of the public (Attar, 111). However, the media is also responsible for doing the above things in a manner that is honest and credible. This means that all the news stories relayed through the media should be real and none of the information should be fabricated. Fake news refers to news that has been fabricated to appear as factual and contains half-truths or whole lies, and as such, the information cannot be trusted due to lack of credibility (Chadwick, 272). This paper aims at addressing the issue of fake news by discussing some of the untrue news articles that raised concerns in 2016. Moreover, it will address the factors that led to the rise in fake news, whether anything can be done legally about fake news and whether fake news has First Amendment protection. The paper will look at what individual readers can do to ensure that the news articles they read are factual and not fabricated.
In 2016, various untrue news articles raised concern as is expected since fake news not only confuse members of the public but also leads to the spread of propaganda arising from the fake news. Political speech is characterized by inappropriate of facts, fabricated statistics as well as distortion of the positions of members of the opposition (Holan, 1). The year 2016 is among the years where the political scene was filled with fake news, where politicians were actively involved in defacing one another. Among the fake news articles that were written in 2016 is the claim that “Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring out of a pizza shop (Nolan, 1).” Another fake news story that was done in 2016 is the one that claimed “Democrats want to impose Islamic law in Florida. “In addition, there were also claims in 2016, that, “Thousands of people at a Donald Trump rally in Manhattan chanted, ‘We hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back.’ All the mentioned news articles were untrue, thus their categorization as fake news (Holan, 1). Fake news in 2016 found an enabler in Donald Trump, who is reported have participated in contributing towards those fake news by uttering falsehoods as well as making legitimate reports that were made up, thus fake news (Holan, 1).
Factors that have led to the rise in fake news include the use of social media as a medium of relaying information. According to an article by BBC, the arrival of social media has made it possible for fabricated news to travel easily across the globe due to internet connectivity. In the words of Winston Churchill, ‘A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,’ which is made possible through the use of social media. Numerous websites have been created some of which imitate actual newspapers but fail to provide whole truths and fabricate some information to cause controversy, thus readership. Similarly, some fake news is spread from government propaganda sites, which are meant to spread information that would favor government actions against opposition’s positions.
For instance, in 2016 during the presidential elections, Trump spread a lot of fake news about Hillary, the other presidential candidate in an attempt to sway Americans and convince them not to vote for Hillary. One would argue that most of Trump’s campaigning moves were characterized by fake news, which apparently did not stop even when he won the elections and became the 45th president of America. Therefore, another factor that can be termed as having resulted in a rise in fake news was the political tension and ambition that existed while presidential candidates sought for the votes of the American people. Political candidates devised strategies that would make their opponents lose face and the favor of Americans, thus increasing their chances of winning the elections.
Another factor that has led to the rise in fake news is the amount of controversy; thus revenue those fake news generate. According to BBC, during an interview with the creator of The National Report, a fake news source, controversial stories that hit big make more money, which is a motivating factor for the rise of fake news. According to The National Report’s owner, ‘We’ve had stories that have made $10,000 (about £8,100). When we really tap in to something and get it to go big then we’re talking about in the thousands of dollars that are made per story.’ Therefore, more websites and publications engage in the spreading of fake news to create a buzz, and this generates more income without caring much about whether such actions are harmful to the American society. Another reason for the rise in fake news can be attributed to the lack of strict rules and regulations concerning the authentication of news before websites, TV and Radio stations, publications such as newspapers and magazines can spread them.
A recent study conducted by Adornato of local TV stations in the US revealed that close to 40% of those station’s editorial policies lacked any form of regulations or guidelines on the verification of information from social media. Irrespective of a lack of guidelines for content verification, news managers at the TV stations confirmed that almost a third of the news bulletins from their TV stations were sourced from social media and thus the increase in the spread of news that is not authentic, thus deeming it the spread of inaccurate fake news. Another factor that has contributed to the rise in the spread of fake news is the pressure on Journalists to come up with as many news stories as possible. As a result, some journalists depend on social media for news stories, irrespective of the authenticity of the content, thus the rise in fake news in a bid for journalists to meet story deadlines (Shao et al., 11).
There are indeed legal remedies for fake news, which can be established through the approach employed in exposing and exploring incidences of fake news. For instance, the fake news about Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant allegedly engaging in child sex trafficking ring, which was pinned on Hillary Clinton and John Podesta can be treated as a form of defamation of character. Both Hillary and Podesta can claim legal action to be taken against the publication that spread the news as well as the source, which can be done through a lawsuit, thus the idea of a legal remedy for fake news (Klein and Joshua, 158). Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant can also sue the publication and source of the story for defamation as the fake story possibly ruined the reputation as well as an image of the restaurant. The law provides for protection against libel, which means that in the event of the same, the court of law can be involved in an instance where fake news has resulted in libel, thus a legal remedy for fake news.
There is also the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is charged with the responsibility of civil enforcement of anti-trust laws. Therefore in the event of the spread of fake news, FTC can charge the responsible publication or TV and Radio station with breaking anti-trust laws since they are spreading untrue information that may cause loss of credibility among people with regards to the victimized parties featured in the fake news (Harlan and Lewis, 24). The First Amendment provides for freedom of speech for individuals. However, the U.S. Supreme Court case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, of 1964 resulted in the establishment of a standard for actual the determination of the presence of malice in speech (Kalven Jr, 192). The court concluded that if a person or organization was responsible for the publishing of information that was established as factual and in the event, it did so for falsified information, then such as person or organization had to answer to the law for possible libel.
As a reader, there are various steps and precautions than an individual can take to ensure the news one is consuming is factual. For instance, one should ensure that they only get news from already established credible sources such as Fox News, Al-Jazeera as well as BBC. Similarly, one should verify the content on news websites as well as social media with well-renowned and trustworthy news sources (Verstraete, Bambauer, and Jane, 11). As an individual, one can learn from personal experience, wherein the event they encountered fake news before, they should avoid the same publication or TV or Radio station that relayed the fake news. A reader, in a bid to avoid consuming fake news, ought to cross check with the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN), on whether the news is authentic and worth consuming and taking into consideration
The idea that fake news has been existence since time immemorial should not be an excuse to tolerate the same during the current times. However, since the introduction of social media, the spread of fake news has only been fastened and made easier due to the connectivity of the internet, which is how social media works (Shao et al., 11). Stringent measures should be taken, including the application of the law to protect members of the public from consuming fake news. It is also the individual responsibility of every American to be vigilant to ensure they get news and information from credible, well renowned and trusted sources to avoid being deceived by fake news. Similarly, fake news websites should be taken down or presented to the court to answer for spreading fake news, which can be done through lawsuits by people who have been defamed by such website’s and publications.
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