Brain Chatter: What is Fake News?

November 1, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

Fake news: much more than a flippant term coined by Donald Trump.

In fact, it’s been around forever (thanks, Gutenberg!). It dates back centuries where tabloid publications and pamphlets were posting sensational stories of a downright mysterious and fantastical nature.

The reason you hear it so often now (other than as a Trump line of defense), is because people are finally understanding the danger it presents.

Yes. Danger.

In light of yesterday and today’s congressional testimonies from Facebook, Twitter and Google, it’s becoming clear that interference in the daily content that people willingly consume may actually fundamentally be altering things as large as politics.

Not to mention News Media Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “advancing the business of news”, recently launched #SupportRealNews – a $10 million campaign aimed at promoting “real news produced by trusted news organizations”.

Oh and by the way, this is the organization second phase of their real news fight.

It didn’t seem to really bother anyone, as the headlines were usually sensational enough that people could smell the outrageousness from a mile away. That is, until the internet made it profitable.

Enter social media.

Unfortunately, those advanced algorithms created by platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google aren’t always as detailed as they sound.

Sure, they look to make sure your campaign images aren’t overwhelmed with text, graphic or totally offensive. But ultimately, if the ad is paid for, it seems to run more often than not.

Then, when it gets mashed up in everyone’s feeds, it’s hard to sort out the crap. People are great at evading straight up ads, but fake news and real news really stumps them. Especially with a “promoted” sign beside it.

After all, why would a huge reputable tech company like Facebook knowingly promote harmful messaging?

Now enter the 2016 presidential election. We’re not by any means accusing Facebook, Twitter or Google of being complicit in some Russian scheme, but each platform certainly holds a responsibility in keeping on track of what gets distributed through it (especially with the amount of data and insight they have).

So, we’ve decided that we want to tackle the topic of Fake News, in a special four-part Brain Chatter segment.

1. First, we’ll get to the root of it. Get ready for a history lesson.

2. Distribution is next. We’ll take a look at the business of running ads and how distribution changed the “fake news” game, from marketers to the internet to social media.

3. After, we’ll explore the effects of the fake news phenomenon as felt by politicians, actual news organizations and everyday people.

4. Lastly, we’ll look ahead. What should, or can be done? How does this change advertisers’ and journalists’ jobs, alike? How will this change content?

Let’s turn some pages.

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