Tag Archives: News

Essay 1

With the rapid growth and development of technology, there is no doubt that social media platforms continuously influence the public opinion, touching on the economic, cultural and social aspects of society. Stated from News Use Across Social Media Platforms, “two-thirds of Americans report they get at least some of their news on social media” (Shearer, 2017). Because of Facebook’s large user base, being a dominant force, it takes the lead on every other social media site as a source of news: a whopping 66% of Americans use Facebook on a daily basis (Shearer, 2017). For many, the social media site remains as an important news outlet source that has made digital communication more transparent and malleable. As a regular social media user, it is crucial to understand the impact of social media because of its creation and impact on social life.

Digital communication tools are the source of facilitating the exchange of information across platforms, resulting in the manipulation and distortion of truths. Consequently, the misinformation leads to what is known as the creation of “fake news”. False stories have been becoming hugely popular online with deceptive titles that attract the reader into believing as real news. Recently, in the last three months of the US presidential campaign, fake news outperformed real news. As a result, a blur between what is genuine and what is false is increasingly becoming harder to differentiate because in a world of easily accessible digital devices, consumers have the ability to play a role in being producers of information. The creation and circulation of public opinion affects social life on two standpoints: cultural and social. Not only does public opinion have the competency to corrupt traditional values, it can alter the audience’s perspectives. Thus, public opinion is ever-changing: it is persuaded and influenced through social media — making it more achievable, yet uncontrollable.

The distribution of fake news on Facebook carries uncontrollable and disruptive ramifications on an individual’s life. Take for example: a photoshoot to promote plastic surgery became viral when false stories began to spread quickly on Facebook, leading to a long-term consequence of a Taiwanese model, Heidi Yeh’s career. The photo shows Yeh posed in a family photo with three kids who were purposely made to appear “ugly” with small eyes and flat noses. Little did Yeh know, she would soon became a victim of a viral internet meme that put a toll on her personal life and career. False claims stated that her supposed husband in the photo sued her (his wife) for deceiving him when he discovered that she had undergone plastic surgery before they met because the image shows a lack of resemblance between the children and the parents. The Taiwanese model felt destroyed by the media, claiming she felt hesitant to continue her modelling career because of the public embarrassment. Serving as a real-life example of the uncontrollable outcomes of public opinion, as a result, the model’s job offers slowed down for three years and shattered her relationship with her then-boyfriend. Subsequently, the situation clearly got out of hand when threats to sue began to emerge.

How did the photo get distributed to become a global meme? The talent advertising agency stated the ad would be featured in newspapers and magazines by the initial cosmetic clinic only, according to Yeh (Willett, 2015). However, the agency later allowed another clinic access to the image for their website, claiming their copyright ownership and intention to promote plastic surgery in a humorous manner. When Yeh threatened to sue the cosmetic clinics, they responded by claiming that she damaged their reputation and demanded for an apology from Yeh. Soon enough, it was all over Facebook news feeds and it is because of these stories that Facebook has moved towards the implementation of algorithms to optimize users’ news feeds in order to cease the prioritization of fake news without restricting the accurate content. The attention that has caused Facebook to take action proves that public opinion is largely influential and is not taken lightly. Therefore, social media and the internet encourages and enables collaboration through the exchanging of knowledge that builds and influences societies.

Citations

B. (2014, July 18). What’s the impact of social networks on public opinion? Retrieved October 11, 2017, from https://medium.com/@behradj92/whats-the-impact-of-social-networks-on- public-opinion-fe148ce89a6

Franz, J. (2016, December 10). What’s the role of social media in the news media? Retrieved October 11, 2017, from https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-11-26/whats-role-social-media-news-media

Shearer, E., & Gottfriend, J. (2017, September 7). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news- use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/

Social Media: Shaping The Way We See the World or Shaping the New World Itself? (2013, February 19). Retrieved October 11, 2017, from https://astanatimes.com/2013/02/social- media-shaping-the-way-we-see-the-world-or-shaping-the-new-world-itself/

Willett, M. (2015, November 06). A Taiwanese model said her life was ‘ruined’ after she was turned into a plastic-surgery meme. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/taiwanese-model-plastic-surgery-meme-2015-11

News and Social Media; Where We Are Today and What It Means For Us

According to Galen Stocking of the Pew Research Center, “roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) ever get news online (either via mobile or desktop)”.

Mitchell et al’s (2013) survey “provides evidence that Facebook exposes some people to news who otherwise might not get it”. Facebook is usually turned to as a source for immediate and breaking news, but there are consequences for turning to this social media platform in ways people may not be thinking about. Whether we like it or not, Facebook is one of the main purveyors of news information in the digital age of today. Even if people don’t depend on Facebook as a news source, it is usually the first thing people look at in the morning and the last thing they look at at night. With the amount of fake news circulating through social media, especially through the 2016 election, it is easy to see why readers may be mislead or have feelings of distrust towards what is online and in our news. It can also be frustrating with those who produce newsworthy content, as they are battling with ‘trolls’ and people distributing false information. The responsibility to improve this issue lies not just with readers and social media users, but the platforms and media this occurs on.

What does one do when the very President of the United States can redefine truth and hard evidence as “alternative fact”? This threatens the very ideologies of democracy, as Farhad Manjoo and his colleague, Thomas B. Edsall, of The New York Times report, (which can be found here http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/03/29/the-future-of-free-speech-trolls-anonymity-and-fake-news-online/). It leads to those readers, who find this absolutely ridiculous, to take on the responsibility of finding their own factual sources. Regardless, a May 2016 study with Pew Research Centre showed “62% of Americans get their news from social media” (Rainie, Anderson, Albright, (2017). Whether it’s fair or not for citizens to have to fight for hard, scientific evidence no longer matters. Users must be aware to what extent their news on Facebook is being manipulated and curated every day. Nunez (2016) writes that “Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section”. Those readers who depend on just social media as their news source are getting their news from news curators, who, as Nunez (2016) continues to describe, are people instructed to “artificially ‘inject’ selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion — or in some cases weren’t trending at all”. In other words, the information people are getting from platforms such as Facebook are filtered and imposed on users. It is disturbing to think that all of society’s eggs are in the basket of one organization, who obviously denies all allegations of bias, and who can determine what stories people are reading whenever they feel like it. Facebook: if you can create algorithms that produce trending topics naturally, then have a team of curators to artificially inject stories into the media despite these computerized algorithms, you can hire a team to filter the algorithms you apparently now use to filter fake news.

How do news organizations battle this? Already, news organizations do not have a lot of funds, and the Internet, combined with this “post-fact” age, is calling for a complete reorganization of the news industry. Gottfried and Shearer (2017), who analyzed data from not even a year ago, reported that “43% of Americans report often getting news online, just 7 percentage points lower than the 50% who often get news on television”, particularly because older Americans are now turning more and more to online news. In fact, upon further investigation, this population is driven by Americans who are “older, less educated, and nonwhite”. More on Gottfried and Shearer’s research on who’s getting what from what social media platforms can be found here; http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/, but needless to say, the population must rely on multiple sources nowadays in order to trust and understand what is going on in the world.

News organizations are not just battling the digital age, but users themselves; those who are defined as ‘trolls’ are characterized by online behaviour that can include, but not limited to, “profanity and name-calling to personal attacks, sexual harassment or hate speech” (Cheng, Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Bernstein, 2017). The rise of the troll was inevitable; “anonymity, a key affordance of the early internet, is an element that many in this canvassing attributed to enabling bad behaviour and facilitating ‘uncivil discourse’ in shared online spats” (Raine, Anderson, Albright, 2017). Rainie, Anderson, and Albright (2017) also found that “scholars provided evidence showing that social bots were implemented in acts aimed at disrupting the 2016 U.S. presidential election… news organizations documented how foreign trolls bombarded U.S. social media with fake news.” But trolls are not just foreign, they can be anyone from a sociopath to just the average Joe waking up on the wrong side of the bed, as Cheng, Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, and Bernstein’s 2017 research shows. For more information on the two key factors that lead ‘ordinary’ people to troll, visit their research at http://www.businessinsider.com/find-out-why-any-of-us-are-capable-of-trolling-2017-3. These trolls are not exercising their freedom of speech, but rather participating in removing the entire country of democratic freedoms and misinforming the public.

Where does this leave us now? Cheng, Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, and Bernstein (2017) claim we can fight back against trolls through machine learning algorithms, create social interventions, prioritize constructive comments over trolling comments, etc. Moreover, we need to demand more action from platforms such as Google and Facebook to take proper steps in being democratic platforms for news, or not offering any news at all. Readers need to double check their sources before they share articles, and critically think about where the articles are coming from and who is writing them. News organizations need to triple check and make available all of their sources before sharing them, as they can affect people’s lives, like with Tom Petty and his family. Most importantly, if our own governments won’t take action against trolls and fake news, then who will?

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All statistics, data and information were recovered from the following references:

Cheng, J., Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, C., & Bernstein, M. (2017, March 02). Why people troll, according to science. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/ find-out-why-any-of-us-are-capable-of-trolling-2017-3

Gottfried, J., & Shearer, E. (2017, September 07). Americans’ online news use is closing in on TV news use. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/07/americans-online-news-use-vs-tv- news-use/

Mitchell, A., Kiley, J., Gottfried, J., & Guskin, E. (2013, October 24). The Role of News on Facebook. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/2013/10/24/the- role-of-news-on-facebook/

Nunez, M. (2016, May 09). Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from https://gizmodo.com/former-facebook- workers-we-routinely-suppressed-conser-1775461006

Rainie, L., Anderson, J., & Albright, J. (2017, March 29). The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from http:// www.pewinternet.org/2017/03/29/the-future-of-free-speech-trolls-anonymity-and-fake- news-online/

Stocking, G. (2017, August 07). Digital News Fact Sheet. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/fact-sheet/digital-news/

Essay: I Want YOU! (to stop spreading fake news).

Incorporating a business into the world of social media can be challenging. The competition to grab the attention of people scrolling through their newsfeeds requires more than bright colours and click bait. Your content has to be relevant and easily accessible. But more importantly, your content should be something that people want to hear about. Otherwise the backlash can be staggering. Recently the Donnelly Group, an independent business based out of Vancouver that owns pubs such as the Bimini and the Lamplighter, made another shift in their business by purchasing the now closed Railway Club. The Railway Club had been a Vancouver staple since the 30s, but fell out of business after it’s last owner couldn’t keep it up. Then when he couldn’t see it they shut it down. When Vancouver local Jeff Donnelly decided to buy the club one would think enthusiasts would rejoice, right?

Wrong. Shortly after the news broke the CBC released an article interviewing partner Chad Cole on the future of the club, where in the interview he stated that “unfortunately [live music]’s not going to be a core element of this new pub.” The news of the Donnelly Group buying out the club spread like wildfire over Facebook and the comment sections of Georgia Straight articles and those done by Vancity Buzz were alive with internet rage. Comments ranged from “For most people The Railway Club is synonymous with live music…to bring the place back without live music is very disappointing” to “I’d rather tear it down than turn it into another generic vapid soulless chain bar. Not going” to calling out employees who work there: “…then the greasy, little floor manager comes over and says “how can I make this right for you?” What a joke”.

The anger was on. But despite the complaints of no live music, the article continued to explain that there would in fact be live music, just not as frequently as the venue had in the past. A follow up article was released emphasising that there would be at least four nights of live music a week due to the backlash. As for the “bad beer, worse food”, the Donnelly Group actually sources almost all of their beer and food locally, and is a proud supporter of local breweries and sponsor of Vancouver events. If any of the commenters had attempted to do the smallest bit of research into this new group that was reviving their so-called favourite establishment when nobody else would, they would learn all of this. This is the effect of social media news.

People have gotten used to bite sized pieces of information. Today things are limited to 140 characters, 7 second videos and status updates to express huge events in our lives. When our attention span has been trained to be so short, all we read is the headline. The drawback is that these headlines can be misleading and often don’t give people the correct information. Pre-conceived biases people hold can be triggered by a negative headline they don’t agree with or enlightened by one that they do. How many times have you “liked” or reacted to an article’s headline without clicking on the link? According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 62% of U.S. adults get their news on social media. NPR reported that a Stanford survey conducted found that 80% of middle schoolers in 12 states couldn’t tell the difference between fake and real news. Based on the comments sections of certain Facebook articles, I’d wager that percentage would only be slightly less for adults. Fake news is effective because people believe what they want to believe. They want something to talk about, and when everyone has their own internet soapbox, it’s easy to yell your opinion into the void, however misinformed it may be. People see a title that supports their way of thinking and because it’s a “published” piece of writing, they cling on to that.

Publishing has changed now that Facebook is in play. In the Columbia Journalism Review’s article “Facebook is eating the world”, writer Emily Bell states “The future of publishing is being put into the hands of the few who control the destiny of the many.” Facebook’s power of news distribution is huge, and who can say what will and will not be published when people’s views of the truth have become so obscure, and even the president is spewing lies in national addresses. The technological powerhouses such as Google, Facebook and Apple have all started to dip their toes in the new industry, with Apple recently launching “Apple News” to add to the growing list of sources.

“When facts don’t work and voters don’t trust the media, everyone believes in their own truth.” claims Katharine Viner in her essay for the Guardian, published in July of last year. For a piece written over six months ago, the statements couldn’t be more true now. The world of publishing and how we receive and even accept our news is changing, and people blowing a restaurant chain out of proportion is just a small example. Incidents like #pizzagate that start off ridiculous and lead to shootings could just be the tip of the iceberg if people don’t start being more responsible for the news that they choose to regurgitate.

But the public doesn’t always believe they have time, or even consider looking deeper into the articles they’re being fed. In an attempt to stop the catcall of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, websites like Teen Vogue and Slate are attempting to educate their readers on how to spot false articles, with Slate even going so far as to create a Chrome extension that actually highlights articles on your newsfeed as possibly false if they come from uncredible sources. Despite this attempt, Slate’s headline for the announcement gives off the real message: “Only you can stop the spread of fake news.” The message is clear, and if people have a duty to themselves and to those around them to believe that the truth is not subjective when it comes to delivering facts. In the end, that’s what news media has always been and what we must fight to make it today.

Sources:

1. Bell, Emily. “Facebook is eating the world.” Columbia Journalism Review. March 7, 2017. http://www.cjr.org/analysis/facebook_and_media.php.
2. Colglazier, William. “The Best TIps for Spotting Fake News in the Age of Trump.” Teen Vogue. January 17, 2017. http://www.teenvogue.com/story/the-best-tips-for-spotting-fake-news-in-the-age-of-trump.
3. Domonoske, Camila. “Students have “dismaying” inhibility to tell fake news from real, study finds. .” NPR. November 23, 2016. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/23/503129818/study-finds-students-have-dismaying-inability-to-tell-fake-news-from-real.
4. Gottfried, Jeffery, and Elisa Shearer. “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016.” Pew Research Center. May 26, 2016. http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/.
Oremus, Will. “Only You Can Stop the Spread of Fake News. .” Slate. December 13, 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2016/12/introducing_this_is_fake_slate_s_tool_for_stopping_fake_news_on_facebook.html.
5. Viner, Katharine. “How technology disrupted the truth.” The Guardian. July 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth.