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Fake News and Trust: Egg or Chicken?

November 20, 2017

 

In the digital age with the rise of social media platforms, information has become prolific. News and reports are accessible in one click. The challenge for media and communication will be the attention of users. Fake news and disinformation impact political campaigns, social media and communication as well as people’s daily lives or the way we are reading news and reports.  Fake news go viral because they appeal to emotions, anger, indignation on the contrary of true, fact checked information. 

 

Fake news do not operate in a vacuum: they also act on fear and anger. Several media, and companies propose tools to fact check information, improve media literacy and work across media to counter fake news.

 

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner responsible for Digital Economy and Society, opened a public consultation until February 2018. She stated: "At the heart of my action lies the defence of citizens' right to quality information which is a cornerstone of our democracies. I want to have an open and broad discussion about fake news to address this complex phenomenon in order to overcome the challenges ahead of us. “

 

Fake news include manipulation, distortion of reality, false statements/facts and can be in some cases made out from scratch to create disruption and instability. Wrong information may lead to wrong research, wrong studies and in the end wrong decisions False statements and facts are widespread by series of bots and amplifiers beyond control and regulation. As impact they raise doubts about institutions, collective memories, history, and facts. But above all they may endanger stability, institutions, security. “The fight against Fake news is a bit like a cat and mice hunt: the regulators are the cats but there are plenty of mice around there" said

 

from Oxford university.  

 

Users even may have got used to the spread of fake news, and as a result, they sometimes do not know what to believe. It makes it increasingly necessary to counter fake news and to create room for cooperation between stakeholders including the regulators, education systems and social platforms. Among others it seems important that publishers and platforms recognize responsibility for the content. Tools need to be created to counter fake news which travel faster and faster. This may also mean to invest in more resources and staff to strengthen quality journalism.

 

The Edelman Trust Barometer highlights that trust in all four institutions: business, government, NGOs and Media has declined broadly in 2017 to a point never noticed since decades. We could see a clear link between the invasion of fake news, proliferation of information and growing distrust, while distrust and discontent are fueling rumors. Do people believe fake news because they do not trust the system, or do fake news lead to increasing distrust? It will be hard to know who comes first, the Egg or the Chicken…

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