"Fake news" refers to falsehoods manufactured and disseminated, whether intentionally or unintentionally, in a manner to create the impression that it is actual news. While the actual term "fake news" is quite recent, the concept has been around for hundreds of years. Both the historical instances and the modern instances are often driven by a desire to make money, whether from purchase of "supermarket tabloids" or from often-deceptive clicks on websites. The falsehoods have sufficient emotional impact to assure that they will be magnified in various mediums. It is debated whether or not this includes satiric news.
The motive of fake news is to either manipulate public opinion or to profit from advertising displayed on the fake news sites. The fake news can originate as a hoax, as a tactical ploy by a political operative, as attempts to boost an audience using "click bait", or as mistaken reporting resulting from bias.
Previously liberals, the mainstream media, and social media had misapplied the term "fake news" to make the false accusation that alternative news sources are "deliberately lying" to their readers, listeners, and viewers, and that these "lies" helped elect Donald Trump President of the United States. The liberal-pushed "fake news" accusations are a form of conspiracy theory. However, the mainstream media itself publishes and promotes fake news stories from appearing in its nightly network newscasts, on its cable news channels, in its newspapers and on its websites (including Facebook). When fake news sites misuse the "ABC News" logo or are designed to appear to be sponsored by a TV news channel, the mainstream media may also appear to publish and promote fake news stories.
As in other mediums, the mainstream media can be rife with blatant fake news stories, such as a fictional Washington Post story that Russia hacked the U.S. power grid in 2016. This happens through mistaken reporting resulting from bias or a failure to screen stories. While leftists accuse conservatives of being behind fake news stories, the evidence shows the exact opposite, although fake news is designed to appeal to audiences all across the political spectrum.
- 1 History
- 2 Modern origins
- 3 Identifying fake news
- 4 CNN and fake news
- 5 Examples of fake news
- 6 Liberal responses
- 7 Conservative responses
- 8 Attempts at censorship
- 9 Hypocrisy
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 External links
"News articles" that are completely fictional have a long history. The motivation is often for the amusement of the author, or the desire to make money by selling the newspaper or handbill based on its entertainment value. Such "news articles" are sometimes purely satirical (something that has a long history), or intentionally malicious, often for political reasons. For example, malicious claims about Presidential candidates (illegitimate children, etc.) have a long history in the United States.
In the more recent past, but before the advent of the widespread propagation of false information through the internet, the most visible instances of "fake news" were probably the "supermarket tabloids" that could be found at checkout counters of supermarkets. These were often full of blatant nonsense, and (nearly) everyone knew that, and bought them only for their entertainment value. Perhaps the most blatant of these was Weekly World News, which seemed obsessed with some half-human half-bat creature named "bat boy", and with extraterrestrials. They sometimes devoted entire issues to extraterrestrials, and, in one instance, had three articles relating that each of the Presidential candidates in the 1992 Presidential election (George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot) had been taken for a personal ride in a flying saucer to see Washington, D.C. from the air.
Walter Lippmann, the father of modern journalism also indicated that the press is supposed to utilize fake news to spin a narrative and thus manufacture public consent, claiming that news and truth are not the same thing, that it requires no real training to deal with the small pool, and that everything else is in the journalist's own discretion, which includes even promoting stereotypes.
These fake articles continue, often with an extreme political slant. Recent issues of the National Enquirer (perhaps the most blatant fake newspaper since the demise of Weekly World News) had completely false articles about Special Forces raids, carpet bombing, drone strikes, and naval assaults by American forces in the Middle East. The Globe has run headlines alleging that Hillary Clinton is a Russian spy and has a "new treason indictment", which is not supported by the corresponding article. Another headline, unsupported by any evidence in the article, stated that Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin were stopped trying to escape from the country. And there were numerous headlines during the 2016 Presidential campaign stating that they were in possession of evidence that would put Ms. Clinton in prison.
The explosive growth of the internet in the early years of the 21st century, and the political divisiveness of the 2016 Presidential election, saw an explosive growth in fake news, far beyond supermarket tabloids, and the use of the term "fake news" to describe this.
Cybersecurity experts began using the term "fake news" to describe social media postings that attempted to spread false information regardless of the political ramifications of its content.
The widespread public use of the phrase by non-experts probably originated on November 14, 2016 in an announcement by Google. They said their advertising service was being pulled from sites whose purpose was to present as news what was solely designed to attract attention rather than conducted in a factual manner by a responsible party. Fake news is also a form of "click bait". A photo would appear in an ad implying that there was a news story about the death of a celebrity, and computer users would click on the link to be taken to a website that carried heavy advertising, but no news story about the death of the living celebrity.
Barack Hussein Obama was a firm believer in projecting what was news and what was fake news. He would famously deride publicly against the reporting of "Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and talk radio." Bill Clinton engaged in similar behavior during an interview with Chris Wallace shortly after the airing of the edited version of The Path to 9/11.
Identifying fake news
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has a checklist to assist people to recognize fake news:
- Consider the source (to understand its mission and purpose)
- Read beyond the headline (to understand the whole story)
- Check the authors (to see if they are real and credible)
- Assess the supporting sources (to ensure they support the claims)
- Check the date of publication (to see if the story is relevant and up to date)
- Ask if it is a joke (to determine if it is meant to be satire)
- Review your own biases (to see if they are affecting your judgment)
- Ask experts (to get confirmation from independent people with knowledge).
CNN and fake news
In first half of 2017, CNN's market share relative to its competitors saw a marked decline. In addition, it faced repeated losses of its credibility through its lapses of journalistic judgment and ethical lapses. President Donald Trump publicly says CNN produces "fake news" and he also told a CNN reporter that CNN produces "very fake news". Subsequently, CNN has been derided as being "FNN: Fake News Network".
Examples of fake news
One of the more infamous examples of fake news was when former CBS News anchor Dan Rather used forgeries of the Killian Documents on George W. Bush's service record in order to sway the 2004 election, which resulted in his firing after being exposed. See Rathergate for more details.
Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice appeared on the five major news network Sunday talk shows to put out an official fake news narrative that a terrorist attack against Americans two months before a presidential election was only a peaceful demonstration that turned into a riot. Despite evidence the contrary, many mainstream news organizations adopted the fake news narrative as fact for its viewers and readers and branded skeptics as conspiracy theorists and racists who opposed a black president.
The most common example of fake news are the "click bait" ads that appear on social media sites saying "Hollywood prepares to say good-bye to [name of celebrity]" implying that the celebrity has just died. People then click on the ad to visit a website to learn about the celebrity's death, which boosts the number of page views on that site. However, the fake news will trend if more people start re-tweeting or sharing the item without visiting the underlying website in the belief that the celebrity has just died.
Fake news is frequently used by radical Islamic terrorists to recruit new adherents. The terrorists will either create or embellish fake news accounts of anti-Islamic acts to radicalize members in target populations. For example, terrorists would spread news accounts of people urinating on the Koran at U.S. military prisons. Another fake news item was that a U.S. company was hiring mercenaries to kill ISIS militants. Again, the emotional impact of the fake news assured that it would spread quickly through social media.
According to FBI cyber experts, during the 2016 presidential election, Russians used armies of Twitter bots to spread fake news using accounts that seem to be Midwestern swing-voter Republicans. Leading up to the March 15, 2017 election in the Netherlands, Russia was found to use social media to spread "fake news" to influence public opinion.
One possible example of fake news was the announcement by the mainstream media that Fidel Castro died at age 90 on November 25, 2016. In fact, the Obama Administration and major news outlets were likely aware that Castro had died of a terminal illness many years earlier. Indeed, Obama did not even mention, let alone visit, Castro during Obama's visit to Cuba in March 2016, and neither the president, vice-president, or other high-ranking elected official of the United States attended Castro's "funeral".
One fake news item from Freedom Daily in February 2017 was: "BREAKING: Federal Judge Just Officially Ruled CNN Is FAKE NEWS And Forces SHOCKING Punishment On Them!" However, this was a mis-reporting of a Georgia federal district court judge denying CNN's motion for summary judgment in a defamation action filed by a hospital executive against CNN. No "shocking punishment" was involved and the case will go to trial on the merits.
A poorly-sourced February 4 Washington Post article claimed a feud existed between DHS Secretary John F. Kelly and Steve Bannon, when in fact, none existed. The article's author was forced to admit his error. In June 2017, the Associated Press reported, and later corrected, a story that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris – something which did not actually happen.
In May 2017, a CNN program claimed that Islam "has always been part of the American fabric" even as far back as the American Revolution, despite the apparent contradiction with the historical record.
President Trump and "fake news"
- For a more detailed treatment, see Mainstream media and Donald Trump.
2016 election and immediate aftermath
It has been confirmed that many fake news sites were actually created and managed by liberal Democrats ("false flag" operations) who support Hillary Clinton and oppose Donald Trump who engage in their deception in an attempt to discredit conservatives and Trump. One of them, Jestin Coler, a Democrat and Clinton supporter who owns the company Disinfomedia, runs several fake news sites that create "conservative" fake news stories.
A topic of fake news stories after the 2016 election was whether there was violence between Trump supporters and opponents. After the 2016 election, several violent and disturbing anti-Trump attacks occurred throughout the nation against Trump supporters or supposed Trump supporters. Despite these attacks, liberals and leftists only focused on alleged "attacks" by Trump supporters against minorities and others (the leftist narrative, although being blatantly false and one-sided, fits their manufactured narrative that Trump supporters are "racist" and "evil" and that leftists are "tolerant" and "forgiving"). Fox News found that despite the number of real anti-Trump attacks which went largely unreported, several of the "pro-Trump" attacks were hoaxes.
One widely shared fake story, spread by the mainstream media, that Trump's election had led to a rise in anti-Semitism by white supremcists—it turned out that bomb threats at a synagogue were actually carried out by "an African-American left-wing journalist" and a "Jewish teenager in Israel, with dual citizenship in the U.S."
FFollowing the 2016 election in which Trump won, liberals, the mainstream media, and social media had misapplied the term "fake news" to make the false accusation that alternative news and Russian sources are "deliberately lying" to their readers, listeners, and viewers, and that these "lies" helped elect Donald Trump President of the United States. The liberal-pushed "fake news" accusations are a form of conspiracy theory. However, the mainstream media itself publishes and promotes fake news stories, from appearing in its nightly network newscasts, on its cable news channels, in its newspapers and on its websites (including Facebook). The MSM has allegedly been adopting safeguards to prevent itself from reporting fake news stories, but it has been unsuccessful based on more recent examples.
At his first press conference as president-elect, Donald Trump described CNN as "fake news." Since becoming president, Trump has accused major news organizations with "fake news" and "very fake news." On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted:
|“||The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!||”|
Also in June 2017, The New York Times falsely stated that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies agreed with an assessment that Russia made hacks into the 2016 presidential election – the actual number was four. The Associated Press reported, and retracted, the same falsehood. Obama Administration Director of National Intelligence confirmed that "the report itself makes it clear that it was the three agencies plus the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that put this intelligence community assessment together."
Russia investigation and James Comey hearing
After several inaccuracies and flaws were found in a CNN article that attacked Trump and his allies over a Russia fund, CNN retracted the article. Three CNN employees resigned due to the resulting scandal.
A Washington Post article claimed that 4.2 percent of American children had witnessed a shooting (this in one in 24). This was based on a survey question which they (deliberately? negligently?) misinterpreted:
- The actual question the researchers asked was, "At any time in (your child’s/your) life, (was your child/were you) in any place in real life where (he/she/you) could see or hear people being shot, bombs going off, or street riots?"
So they mixed in "witnessed a shooting" with "heard a street riot", etc.
One attempt at broadening the meaning of the term as well as professing the likelihood of the use of what the term describes appeared on November 23, 2016 in the Washington Post:
|“||In the wake of Donald Trump’s shock Nov. 2016 electoral victory, attention fell on the extent to which voter opinions could have been shaped by an epidemic of "fake news" websites that masqueraded as legitimate media outlets...Many fake stories proved more viral on social media than important articles from real sources.||”|
Ishaan Tharoor, the author who wrote the piece, lets the reader know that he assumes Trump's election win is so surprising (although it wasn't) that any explanation deserves to be looked at if the event has not been fully explained already. This would allow the subject which follows—his allegations of "fake news" being epidemic as well as his suggestions that they were isolated to media outlets that weren't "real sources" (by some unstated body's estimation)—to be plausible or even to be considered an especially good candidate as an explanation (to the uninformed), despite being unfounded or at least founded on exaggeration.
|“||Something has changed — as globalization has marched on, debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago ... Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms, and we have to learn to deal with them. I believe we should not underestimate what is happening in the context of the Internet and with digitalization; this is part of our reality ... We have regulations that allow for our press freedom, including the requirement for due diligence from journalists. Today we have many that experience a media that is based on very different foundations and is much less regulated.||”|
Facebook has also responded to the alleged problem by developing a system wherein readers can flag a post they find suspicious. Once flagged the post will be reviewed by a mainstream media representative, who decides whether the news is "real" or "fake."
On January 14, 2016, the Snopes website, itself considered a fake news site by some experts, published its "Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors"
"Undoubtedly the new main psyop against independent media is flooding the web with fake news, and mainstream media putting out fake news, and setting themselves up like a super-Snopes, to be the arbiter of what’s real and what’s not," countered Alex Jones from Infowars in the wake of criticism of the Alternative Media on the part of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supporters following Trump's win.
Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham noted that one of the most prominent and blatant examples of fake news is the media's treatment of evolution and an old Earth as undisputed scientific fact, even though numerous counterexamples exist to evolution and an old Earth.
Attempts at censorship
Melissa Zimdars, a far-Left professor had compiled a list of supposedly "fake and misleading" news websites that was heavily promoted in the Mainstream Media, including Breitbart, Infowars, Twitchy, The Blaze, and Bizpac Review. Even liberals, such as Will Oremus on Slate.com, criticized the list and the term itself for being far too broad, unfairly targeting numerous sites, and being an overreaction. Zimdars later removed her "Fake News" list, claiming she had been "harassed" and "doxed".
While liberals frequently accuse conservative or alternate media sites of being dishonest, they typically gloss over the massive failings of the mainstream media to accurately and fairly cover the news, as well as its own propensity to post and report fake news itself (such as the polls they released which falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton was "well ahead" of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election campaign in order to discourage conservative voters, despite the attendance figures of the Trump campaign rallies vs. the Clinton campaign rallies, which the mainstream media chose to ignore, proving otherwise). Although the polls may have correctly predicted Clinton's 3 million vote margin in the national popular vote, commenters ignored the fact that the election is determined state-by-state in the Electoral College. In fact, within days after Trump's victory in the election, Wikipedia's liberal editors propagated a far from neutral and heavily liberal-biased "Fake news website" article.
- "Tall Tale or Satire? Authors of So-Called "Fake News" Feel Misjudged". NBC News. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/tall-tale-or-satire-authors-so-called-fake-news-feel-n689421
- Fake News Watch. http://fakenewswatch.com/
- Callan, Paul. Sue over fake news? Not so fast. Retrieved on April 6, 2017.
- Facebook is still figuring out how to tackle fake news. Tech Crunch (Feb 14, 2017). Retrieved on June 29, 2017.
- Barron, Rachel. "Even News Sites Fall for Fake News", American Journalism Review, April 3, 2017. Retrieved on June 29, 2017.
- "Breitbart Duped by Fake News (Again)", Snopes, September 1, 2016. Retrieved on April 5, 2017.
- Leetaru, Kalev, "'Fake News' And How The Washington Post Rewrote Its Story On Russian Hacking Of The Power Grid," Forbes, Jan 1, 2017.
- Nicas, Jack (November 14, 2016). "Google to bar fake-news websites from using its ad-selling software". Wall Street Journal.
- How to Spot Fake News (January 27, 2017).
- Death Spiral: Along With Its Credibility, CNN Ratings Collapse, Daily Wire, 2017.
- Trump to CNN: "Very Fake News"
- 'Fake News Network': Trump Blasts CNN for Retracted Russia Story, Fox News Network
- Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors (January 14, 2016). Retrieved on April 4, 2017.
- "How Russian Twitter Bots Pumped Out Fake News During The 2016 Election", NPR, April 3, 2017. Retrieved on April 4, 2017.
- "Russia spread fake news during Dutch election: report", Politico, April 4, 2017. Retrieved on April 4, 2017.
- "Did a Judge Rule That CNN Is 'Fake News'?", Snopes, Feb 17, 2017. Retrieved on April 5, 2017.
- Hayward, John (February 8, 2017). Fake News: DHS Secretary Calls WaPo ‘John Kelly-Steve Bannon Feud’ a ‘Fantasy Story’. Breitbart News. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Boyle, Matthew (June 30, 2017). Fake News: Associated Press Engulfed in CNN-Level Scandal as It Covers Up Invention of Imaginary Pruitt Meeting. Breitbart News. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- Pollak, Joel B. (May 29, 2017). CNN’s W. Kamau Bell: Islam Part of America’s Founding. Breitbart News. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
- Sydell, Laura (November 23, 2016). "We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned." NPR. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- Dewey, Caitlin (November 17, 2016). Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- Facebook Live attack the latest in string of anti-Trump assaults. Fox News. January 5, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
- Pollak, Joel (March 29, 2017). Donald Trump Vindicated: Antisemitism Surge ‘Fake News’. Breitbart News. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Heinlein, Peter (May 30, 2017). Trump Frustrated by 'Fake News' That Overlooks His Accomplishments. Voice of America. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
- Facebook is still figuring out how to tackle fake news. Tech Crunch (Feb 14, 2017). Retrieved on June 29, 2017.
- Barron, Rachel. "Even News Sites Fall for Fake News", American Journalism Review, April 3, 2017. Retrieved on June 29, 2017.
- Greenwood, Mark (February 17, 2017). Trump tweets: The media is the 'enemy of the American people'. The Hill. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
- Moran, Sean (June 23, 2017). Fake News: Washington Post Invents Meeting Between FCC Chair Ajit Pai and President Trump. Breitbart News. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
- Mason, Ian (June 30, 2017). New York Times: Turns Out ‘17 Intelligence Agencies’ Was Fake News. Breitbart News. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- Klein, Aaron (July 1, 2017). Fake News: Associated Press Clarifies 17 U.S. Intel Agencies Did Not Assess Russia ‘Interference’. Breitbart News. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- Poor, Jeff (July 7, 2017). Fmr Obama DNI Clapper: Only 3 or 4 Intelligence Agencies Agreed on Russian Interference — ‘It Wasn’t 17’. Breitbart News. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
- Scarborough, Rowan (June 8, 2017). James Comey debunks New York Times story that fueled unproven Trump-Russia collusion. The Washington Times. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
- Pollak, Joel B. (June 7, 2017). James Comey Testimony Proves Trump Right, CNN Wrong. Breitbart News. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
- Boyle, Matthew (June 23, 2017). Very Fake News: After Breitbart Investigation, CNN Retracts Conspiracy Theory Hit Piece Attacking Trump, Associates Over Russian Fund. Breitbart News. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
- Boyle, Matthew (June 24, 2017). CNN Under Fire: ‘Very Fake News’ Network Hit from All Sides as Breitbart Investigation Forces Rare Retraction. Breitbart News. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
- Boyle, Matthew (June 26, 2017). Three Employees Resign from CNN Amid Very Fake News Scandal. Breitbart News. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
- Adams, Becket (June 26, 2017). Three CNN staffers quit over retracted story. Washington Examiner. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
- 19 kids are shot every day in the United States
- How news organizations, including this one, unintentionally misinformed the public on guns
- Fake news threatens German election: Merkel
- Finally, Someone Is Standing Up to Fake News: Infowars
- Ham, Ken (March 21, 2017). The Real Fake News. Answers in Genesis. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
- BREAKING: Liberals Create List of "Fake" News Websites Including: Breitbart, Infowars, Zerohedge, Twitchy, The Blaze
- Oremus, Will (December 6, 2016). Stop Calling Everything “Fake News”. Slate.com. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- Dr Melissa Zimdars removes fake news list and claims she was ‘harassed’
- "Fake news website" article at Wikipedia, December 2, 2016.
- What is Fake News video by Prager University
- Forbes: Fake News Is So Un-civil
- Fake News, by Bill Whittle
- FAKE NEWS: CNN Ties MILO to White Nationalists Despite Explicit Rejection of Racism at Breitbart News Network
- Fakehatecrimes.org. A database of reported instances of fake hate crimes.
- 6 Quick Ways to Spot Fake News