Fake News + Social Media = Political Chaos

             Fake news, tabloids, and media are nothing new to American culture, but social media in combination with fake news is more recent. The amount of information we consumed on social media has grown exponentially over the last decade. With this increase, it has brought on plenty of fake news that is continuously jammed into our screens as we are scrolling through our news feeds. There is so much going that we do not have the time or the will to even dissect what we are reading to ensure its legitimacy.

            While this has many problematic components to it such as the decline in people’s comprehension of higher-level material, it also has some direct implications for American society. Given the vacant political positions that needed to be filled this past election cycle, it seemed as though an increase of fake news entered the stream of our newsfeeds. Each bit of information, articles and the like all served the purpose to influence the viewer that a particular presidential candidate was the best fit to lead the free world. However, often times people ignore the validity of this information and still take it with an ocean of salt. While this cycle of hollow trust has always survived through the infancy of social media, its political implications make this topic all the more necessary to resolve.

            Though only limited formal research has been conducted surrounding this idea of fake news in social media influencing voters, there is still a large gray area that has yet been explored. As was the case with researchers at Stanford found that “social media was an important but not a dominant source of news in the run up of the election.” Although this one study found social media to be an important source of news, but not a dominant one, it still holds significance because of the implications it has on the direction of our country. Americans are steadily shifting from the medium in which they are gaining their news information. A decade ago, social media had little to no effect on political elections, now we are witnessing a sharp increase in its usage for a good portion of our knowledge. A decade from now, social media’s influence through the fake news stories on political elections may increase enough to serve a dominant role in our elections.

            Whether its partial role on influencing elections or taking on a dominant one, it is clear that there needs to be action towards erasing fake news’ influence on the political sphere. We cannot have fake news of a candidate give an uncharacteristic impression of that person and in turn have someone base his or her vote on this false information. I do not have to go into much detail to illustrate the negative aspects attached to fake news in voting in order to highlight its toxicity.

            However, what is there to do about it? In order to tackle the issue, we must examine the root of fake news’ influence. In doing so we have to dissect whether it is our heavy consumption of social media and exposure to fake news that is the issue or is it a personal responsibility? In other words, is the solution rooted in our lack of critical thinking/analysis, which makes us prone to being gullible? While banning fake news from the Internet all together seems a bit extreme and perhaps unconstitutional, we must look to more feasible solutions.

            Therefore, a more feasible approach seems to develop a culture of viewing the information we seen with a critical eye. Although the American education system does not fully encourage students to question everything, we must shy away from this type of thinking. We need to begin to become more knowledgeable individuals with a burning curiosity for the true instead of blindly accepting information at face value. Only then will we be able to shield ourselves from receiving misinformation and making decisions on the basis of false facts. Although this is not the only solution to fake news’ influence through social media, it is one that will ensure people’s liberties to free speech by not being restricted through strict bans. Another solution could be giving fines for those who publish false articles and facts. However, this to will give the government added authority in being the gatekeepers as to which articles are released and which never see the light of day.

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4 thoughts on “Fake News + Social Media = Political Chaos

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  1. The role of social media in this last election cycle has got me still reeling. Even without Trump’s personal usage of Twitter, fake news, horrible memes, inaccurate debates on Facebook statuses were constant, and I shudder at the thought of how much they really influenced this election. However, I agree that trying to forcibly take anything out would be a violation of the First Amendment, and that educating people is our best bet. I do wonder, however, about the role of other mediums of news, especially at the extremes of the spectrum, like print or VR. If you have any further insights, I would be interested to hear them.

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    1. I definitely feel other mediums of news also have some sort of influence on a voter. I’m not to sure how VR plays into things, but I could seem the same impact that social media has, is similar to print. I remember being at the grocery store and seeing tabloids saying something along the lines, “Hillary is crooked, lets lock her up.” What use to be tabloids are now making their way into political news. It is very hard to to distinguish the blurred line between political news and tabloids. However, I ultimately feel what has the most impact, remains television and the media. It will be difficult to have a “fair” election from here on out where some for of media/news does not make some sort of negative contribution.

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  2. Even prior to the recent US presidential election, there was a lot of talk about the influence of fake news. And afterward, news organizations tracked down the sources of fake news and discussed the failed efforts to curtail it. Surveys of voters show that a large percentage of people believe news stories that are demonstrably false, even when those people are confident in their own ability to distinguish the real news from the fake. On the other hand, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook — one of the main promotional channels for fake news — called the idea of it influencing the election “pretty crazy.” More importantly, the fact that the “rust belt” states swung the election toward the Republican this year implies that people voted according to their economic interests, not because they believed untrue allegations about Hillary Clinton. To my thinking, this calls into question the whole idea of fake news really affecting the outcome. So, is there evidence that ties voting patterns in key states or demographics to a belief in fake news stories? Is there a correlation between voter belief in fake news and turnout, such that those who believed fake news favorable to Trump were more likely to show up to the polls? Clearly, it would be good if the electorate made all its choices based purely on the facts, so I’m not suggesting that fake news isn’t a problem. But I’d like to understand how big an influence it actually had on the electoral outcome.

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  3. It is difficult for sites such as Facebook to be accountable for posts that include falsified informational content. Facebook refuses to acknowledge itself as a news source. It is important that social media sites allow users and third party organizations to post informational content because it provides underserved populations who would otherwise not have access. There must be a solution to filter out the slanderous and misleading information that is posted by its users. Social media sites must take accountability measures to better establish resourceful and factual information by its users. The past Presidential cycle proved that the issue of fake news is a clear and present danger to journalistic and political reporting in modern society.

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