Header image of What is Fake News?

February 15, 2017 | Danielle Chatterton

What is Fake News?

When the term “fake news” first came about, it mainly referred to content designed to misguide the public. While not a new concept, fake news is putting news brands at growing risk. The term is increasingly being misused, misunderstood, and undermining the confidence in trustworthy media sources. Placing such power in the hands of social media puts news brands in a challenging position. Over the last few months, the term has taken on a wider range of meanings, to the point where it is sometimes used to discredit news from mainstream media.

It is becoming more difficult for readers across the world to discern the authenticity of news content. According to a recent survey by channel 4, only 4% of UK adults could correctly identify whether a news story is true or fake.

The spread of “fake news” masquerading as authentic journalism, could be harmful to the reputation of news publishers, and detrimental to audiences’ trust in news media. From the same survey, more than half of respondents agree that the government is not doing enough to tackle fake news, suggesting the issue is now on the “public’s national agenda”.

53% of people said broadcast news (TV/Radio/Online) was their primary source of news, while newspapers appear quite low at 17%. Interestingly, by comparison, only 6% cited Facebook as their primary source of news, and only 2% cited Twitter. Which goes against common misconception that most news content comes from and is shared via social media due to our increasingly digital lives.

Reaching more than 1 billion users daily, Facebook still claims to be a curator of news rather than a traditional media company. This could be set to change this year though after Facebook recently integrated fact-checking into it’s publication and following a new ranking algorithm which has been added, which identifies misleading or “spammy” posts and lowers them within news feeds – until recently they have been unable to verify the legitimacy of news which has made it harder for the public to distinguish the truth from fiction -the latest attempt from the social network to prove it values authentic content and the responsibility to control what is published on its platform. 1  

Channel 4, discontent with social media devaluing its brand, is working to verify facts circulating across the internet in hope that this will prove its purpose in the news ecosystem.

Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Dave Brooke’s, believes forcing social media to comply with a set of fact-checking standards is where the solution lies.2

However, there is no simple solution when it comes to addressing the issue of “fake news”; so far there are a lot of questions, but not many answers. Various publishers and UK Newspapers have launched projects aimed at strengthening the credibility of the news media in the face of fake news, quickly becoming active participants in the ongoing struggle: for instance, Le Monde has created a database of 600 unreliable websites and is developing a suite of products aiming to curb the spread of misinformation.

On a more positive note, contrary to the hype, the fake news “epidemic” does not signal the end for the publishing industry. Is it not worth publishers putting more efforts into their other digital platforms, such as apps – where readers know they can rely on authentic news. Now, more than ever, readers are perhaps at a stage where they are more willing to pay for content too as they crave genuine/quality news. In today’s media environment, publishers who offer verified, quality content will have an advantage. With increased consumer support comes revitalised monetisation opportunities, and the chance to regain control of advertising.