The danger of fake news is not that people will believe it. Most fake news isn’t even designed to be believed. The real danger is that the spread of fake news impacts the way that we interpret and respond to real news, both consciously and unconsciously.
The World Wide Web has changed the dynamics of information transmission and agenda-setting. Facts mingle with half-truths and untruths to create factitious informational blends (FIBs) that drive speculative News. It was also demonstrated that perceived realism of fake news is stronger among individuals with high exposure to fake news and low exposure to hard news than among those with high exposure to both fake and hard news.
It’s too soon to say whether Google’s and Facebook’s attempts to clamp down on fake news will have a significant impact. But fabricated stories posing as serious journalism are not likely to go away as they have become a means for some writers to make money and potentially influence public opinion. Even as Americans recognize that fake news causes confusion about current issues and events, they continue to circulate it.
“Fake news” is a term that can mean different things, depending on the context. Much of the fake news that flooded the internet consisted of written pieces and recorded segments promoting false information or perpetuating conspiracy theories. If the Internet is going to be the utopian information marketplace that it is supposed to be, then we are going to have to be better consumers, sampling from various places and loudly pushing back against a bad product. Otherwise, we will be left with an Internet that looks like a garbage dump: plenty of choice, but nothing worth saving.
In its purest form, fake news is completely made up, manipulated to resemble credible journalism and attract maximum attention and, with it, advertising revenue. Humor sites, too, can be easily taken at face value, especially if they touch on current events or politics and if they appear free of context on social media.