Dio reviewed my blog last week and after taking his words into consideration, I’ve attempted to make some changes to my blog. He spotted some very specific flaws and I appreciate his efforts. He noted that at the very top left, there is a tab which brings up a submenu that gives the option to direct the reader to the “about” page of the website. He found it a little redundant because there is already an about section on the dropdown menu and I completely agree. With high hopes of making my site better, I have to say that I struggled a bit when trying to remove the about page from the submenu. I only wanted to remove one or the other but I ended up removing the about page from both locations. Since I don’t think that is a very big concern, I will keep experimenting with WordPress and its function throughout the weeks. Another concern that Dio had was that my website lacked social media integration. To be honest, I’ve tried inputting my social media icons during the first few weeks but I just wasn’t satisfied with how they were awkwardly placed on my blog and unless I do some sick coding, I think that was all I had to work with. I do agree with Dio that since my blog is about traveling and lifestyle, pictures from other platforms would really compliment my blog. After reading about that, I quickly made the change even though the placements were still awkward but at least I still have some social media integration. The only place that I found that wasn’t too awkward was at the bottom. I know it’s not the best placement because it doesn’t stand out to readers but I guess it can be like a little bonus/surprise for those who are able to find the icon!
In the new age of social media and content production, many people are finding themselves in a black hole of information that may or may not be true. Often, the things we read online have been fabricated, been blown out of proportion, or is just clickbait. Many readers of online news consume this digital information passively and very rarely engage with the text to research more about the topic.
With technology rapidly growing every day and the fast pace of developed economies, immediacy is at the forefront of consumer culture. Consumers are conditioned to expect information presented to them at face value rather than taking the time to click through to more sites to learn more about a topic. Technology is allowing people to create and produce more creative content that hides it’s credibility through seemingly (but not) verified sources that come across as believable and real to the untrained eye. The immediacy of media is incriminating some news sources and putting their reputations at risk. People are now finding themselves unable to trust the news and are looking for multiple sources for the truth.
When we think of “Fake News” we think of Donald Trump, he is at the centre of this fake news epidemic. Let’s first take a look at the ongoing issue Donald Trump has with “Fake News” or NBC and CNN, tweeting about how dishonest these new sources are.
True that these news sources aren’t the most reputable but it’s ironic that the news source he does trust (Fox News) is even less reputable than NBC and CNN.
According to this study done by Michael W. Kearney on which news sources are and are not trusted (with Trump ranking as the fifth least trusted source) NBC and CNN rank higher as more trusted than Fox News.
But with over 40.5 million followers on Twitter, it is no surprise that some people will take this advice seriously because he is at a position of power, especially through the internet where he has the autonomy to Tweet at random his honest opinions.
Buzzfeed is listed as the second least trustworthy news source, but until recently I had never considered it as a news source at all because of its predominant entertainment value. Buzzfeed, for me was a website that consisted of personality quizzes, cat pictures and gifs representing the struggles of the female body, but this is beside the point. Buzzfeed caters to a passive viewership, it’s content is far from “news”, but it is a news source, nonetheless, that “poses a fresh challenge for traditional media companies as they battle for web users’ time and attention” (Halliday, 2013).
Obviously social media has changed how we communicate. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and others have allowed for unmediated publishing. It has generated a viewership and audience responsiveness that is immediate, thus creating a culture where information spreads like a wildfire. Social media has given people the experience and opportunity to voice their opinions or communicate with others while separating themselves from the real world in what John Suler dubs “dissociative anonymity“. This has made it easy for people to separate their actions from real life by publishing false content and passing it off as truth. With this immediacy people are conditioned to expect in the digital age of social media, these false news stories are mostly not fact checked and are shared worldwide before people have the chance to question it’s legitimacy.
New sources tend to follow this trend of immediacy as events and situations are being broadcasted in real time across the globe. People assume the things they read from these news sources are factual because of the way the news story is presented, usually with statistics, quotes, and sources (sometimes false or taken out of context) and don’t bother to ask further questions.
I think this hoax interview with ‘Jude Finisterra’ from The Yes Men impersonating a Dow Chemical Spokesperson on BBC World promising compensation for the victims of the Bhopal chemical disaster in India 20 years later is a great example of how reputable news sources can have their faults and the how immediacy of the media can be taken advantage of.
After the truth was revealed that ‘Finisterra’ who had appeared on BBC was a hoaxer and was part of the Yes Men’s stunt as part of a contemporary art agenda to “impart a significant political message through the media” (Kim, 2014), the BBC had quickly pulled the video and issued statements claiming they were victims of this elaborate hoax and that “its procedures regarding the trustworthiness of information obtained from websites would be reviewed” (Wells and Ramesh, 2004). Although we can argue it was incredibly problematic to present this piece of art in the context of reality, this incident forces consumers of news media to take a step back and question the legitimacy of the source of their information.
Many hoaxes (some not nearly as elaborate as this) have fooled a wider audience and have generated talk surrounding the situation. This reminds me of Wikipedia and it’s questionable legitimacy in the past, before editors started to crack down on verifiability, where people were allowed to edit pages and create new pages of their own free will, sparking a culture of hoax Wikipedia pages with fake sources.
As someone whose content revolves around the concept of lying and generating fake content, I have to step back and ask myself how this fits into the world of social media and the credibility of news. Am I contributing to the fake news epidemic? In some ways you could argue that yes, I am a creator of fake news and I am teaching my audience to be creators of fake news. But, the way we use this knowledge and information is ultimately up to the users who hold the information. I am merely providing the tools for creating this type of content.
Like the Yes Men, how do we justify how we use this information for the greater public? I think this is a question we all have to ask ourselves as online content creators whose credibility is important to the wider audience. Is this content being published in the context of reality or in our own public spheres online and does it affect the consumer’s lives in real life? I think this is a question of morality that we have to address within ourselves.
Halliday, Josh. 2013. “11 things you need to know about Buzzfeed” The Guardian, 6 Jan. 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/jan/06/buzzfeed-social-news-open-uk
Kearney, Michael W. 2017. “Trusting News Project Report 2017.” Reynolds Journalism Institute, 25 July. 2017, https://www.rjionline.org/reporthtml.html
Kim, Adela H. 2014. “Yes Men Bhopal Legacy.” The Harvard Crimson, 5 Mar. 2014. http://www.thecrimson.com/column/the-art-of-protest/article/2014/3/5/art-of-protest-the-bhopal-legacy/
Ramesh, Randeep, and Matt Wells. 2004. “BBC reputation hit by Bhopal interview hoax.” The Guardian, 4 Dec. 2004, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2004/dec/04/india.broadcasting
razorfoundation. “Bhopal Disaster – BBC – The Yes Men.” 2007. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiWlvBro9eI
Suler, John. 2004. “The Online Disinhibition Effect.” Available from: Cyberpsychology & behavior 7.3 (2004): 321-326. http://truecenterpublishing.com/psycyber/disinhibit.html
Trump, Donald (realDonaldTrump). “I will be interviewed tonight on @FoxNews by @SeanHannity at 9pmE. Enjoy!” 11 Oct 2017. 5:32 pm. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/918227740700102657. Tweet.
Trump, Donald (realDonaldTrump). “People are just now starting to find out how dishonest and disgusting (FakeNews) @NBCNews is. Viewers beware. May be worse than even @CNN!” 12 Oct. 2017. 8:12 pm. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/918630610167529472. Tweet.
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.
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
Fake news are not the products of the modern era. In the past, politicians also use propaganda to fit their own needs. Also, in some countries, traditional media such as newspapers and magazines are controlled and censored by the government who would only approve contents that are not against the government. However, the reason why fake news became an important issue was due to the development of Internet and social media platforms as we are entering the digital era. Fake news always exist but their power grows when the method to spread information changed.
How Did Internet and Social Media Platforms Influence Fake News?
The development of Internet and social media platforms had cleared a lot of barriers on the publishing and the spreading of fake news. In an article from The Telegraph, the author James Carson summarized three ways how social media revolution influenced fake news.
First, the creation of Facebook, Twitter and WordPress decreased the cost to publish and to distribute news. For traditional paper media, it may take hours or days to collect information, to edit content and to print those contents on paper. However, with the assistance of social media platform, it would save a lot of time and money to publish information. Second, various social media platforms had increased the accessibility of fake news to a large amount of audiences. Also, because of the lowered cost, publishers of fake news would not worry about the building of trust and the consequence of losing trust. Third, it was difficult to regulate online social media by law. Most publishers of fake news are anonymous individuals. Without regulation and restriction, online publishers would not worry about taking responsibility of their behaviors.
In my opinion, I agree with the author. The social media platform had speed up the information exchange in a good way. However, speeding up the sharing of fake news was one of its side effect.
How Powerful is Fake News?
A group of scholars from Stanford University had conducted studies on the role of fake news on 2016 US presidential election.
First, in order to test the significance of social media, they conducted a post-election online survey among 1200 people. The results showed that only 14 per cent of Americans considered social media as the most important sources of information during the election (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). Later, they also used fake stories and placebo stories to conduct an experiment. After a series of calculation, they estimated that a single fake news story had a persuasion rate equivalent to seeing 36 television campaign ads (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017).
In my opinion, we are surrounded by high technology and digital products in urban cities. We become attached to online social media platform to the extent that we ignored the other sources of information. We became biased and even tend to omit the fact that there are certain per cent of people who still rely on newspaper or TV as dominant source of information. Therefore, I believed that the power of fake news could be huge but it was also limited only to people who frequently use social media platforms.
What Can We Do with Fake News?
Understanding the role of social media platforms on fake news and the limited influence of fake news, the next question would be what we could do with fake news.
As a person who could not live without social media platform, I would suggest myself and other users of social media platform to raise awareness of fake news. This is the first step. Lipkin is the executive director of National Association for Media Literacy Education. She believed that “Education is key and is our most powerful weapon against falsehoods.” (Padgett, 2017). We should understand that somehow we are more or less biased but the key to avoid falling in the trap of fake news is education.
On the other hand, I think it was also the responsibility of the social media platforms to make regulations on their users’ online behaviors. Some may worry that it could damage the freedom of speech of their users but I believed that our online behavior should be regulated as our offline behaviors. Purposely spreading false news should be identified and banned. Recently, Facebook began using third-party fact-checkers and gave its users the ability to manually report fake news posts (Tarantola, 2017). It is unsure if the solution would work but it indicated that at least, social media platform companies had moved towards solving the fake news problem.
To conclude, I found that fake news always exist but during recent years, Internet and social media platforms had amplify the power of fake news. However, according to studies, the influence of fake news may not be as huge as we expected. To minimize the damage of fake news, social media users should educate themselves and social media companies should make policies to manage their online communities.
Allcott, H., Gentzkow,M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Retrieved from https://web.stanford.edu/~gentzkow/research/fakenews.pdf
Carson, J. (2017). What is fake news? Its origins and how it grew under Donald Trump. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/fake-news-origins-grew-2016/
Padgett, L. (2017). Filtering Out Fake News: It All Starts With Media Literacy. Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/it/jan17/Padgett–Filtering-Out-Fake-News.shtml
Tarantola, A. (2017). Facebook now flags fake news. Retrieved from https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/06/facebook-now-flags-fake-news/