By Kevin Gilmour
Fake news has itself been making news almost every day since the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election was announced. But is the proliferation of false or fake news any greater now than it was before? What effect would a crack down on fake news have on independent and alternative news outlets? Could we be seeing the beginnings of mass censorship with only government ‘approved’ news outlets being left standing?
We live in a day and age where people rely excessively on media technology. From our daily news to all the latest updates in our favorite industries, we head over to online or other social media resources in order to educate ourselves and stay updated on all the latest developments. But with a resource like the internet, where everyone has the freedom and the ability to write what they want even without having any credible sources and where many people tend to believe everything they read, it can become quite easy for fake news and rumors to spread akin to a wildfire in a dry forest.
An Epidemic of Fake News?
In the past few months, fake news has become a trending topic. False information has become abundant on online resources and it has become difficult to trust what you see and read on social media.
For example, when someone spread on Facebook the fact that Donald Trump, a candidate previously running in the election campaign and now President elect of the United States of America, has been endorsed by the Pope. As expected in an unsurprising turn of events, this was in fact false news and it was revealed that the Pope has had no say in this matter.
Similar to this, the likes of Google and other social networking sites have also become plagued with false news that misinforms people. Not only that, but even mainstream news channels that are a major source of information for most people have also become prone to providing false information incredibly frequently.
Effect of Fake News on Independent and Alternative News Websites
It is evident that the advent and rise of fake news has had a deleterious effect on several independent and alternative news sites as well as social media sites. Once this wrong information begins to spread and accumulate over time, its potential dangers become dangerous.
When social media sites look to generate matter quickly without credibility and the news they produce that initially garnered a plethora of engagement turns out to be false, it not only affects that particular platform, but also cause a decrease in the authenticity of all independent news sources in the public eye as well. What is to say that others are not doing the same thing that particular site is doing? Fake news created solely to generate interest hurts the opportunity and credibility of journalists who are honest in their trade.
Should Governments Intervene?
But should the prevention of spreading fake news be a part of a national government’s responsibility? According to a recent survey, a majority of people believe that the government has a significant role to play when it comes to protecting the nation’s people from fake or false news. A role that it currently seldom plays.
These days, misinformation is packaged in such an illusionary veil that it tricks many into believing it and considering it as fact. But should governments be looking to put into action strict laws against writers and editors that often publish false news articles in order to generate views, interest, and debates based on untrue facts.
We can easily pin this very operation on the mainstream news media outlets, who themselves are just as guilty at promoting and disseminating false news stories. The hype in the mainstream media surrounding weapons of mass destruction in the run up to the Iraq war is a prime example of this. But should it be the job of a national government to ‘help’ the people realize the gravity of the proliferation of fake news and ‘help’ them to identify the fake from the facts.
Social media websites such as Facebook are already putting into place censorship protocols on fake news websites. Although this could be very damaging for independent news sites, there seems to be no alternative yet to preventing fake news from expanding.
Ultimately it is up to the public not to take news at face value regardless of the source. As stated earlier mainstream news outlets are just as guilty in the spread of fake news, false narratives and political propaganda as are those websites who do nothing but spread lies and deceit.
We should all be responsible and fact check the news we consume. Don’t just take one source as the truth, look around, read and listen to other opinions and debate on a topic. The more the public seek out sources of information to collaborate a news story the less effectiveness fake news websites will have, and hopefully with the added bonus of pressurizing the mainstream media to deliver unbiased, truthful content with less political bias.