Peer-Reviewed Article explores the where and how the phenomenon of fake news was created and spread, its impact on recent “democratic” elections, including the United States, and its continuing threat to future elections including the US 2020 Presidential
At the end of 2016, "fake news" had a clear meaning in the United States. After years of scholarship attempting to define the term “fake news” and where it fits among the larger schema of media hoaxing and deception, popular culture and academic studies converged following the 2016 election to define fake news in drastically new ways. Perhaps most influential in these descriptions was the impact of social media. Researchers at Oxford University's Internet Institute spent 18 months identifying 91 sources of propaganda across the political spectrum on social media, which spread what they deemed "junk news," either deliberately misleading or masquerading as authentic reporting. These studies are proving increasingly important in analyzing how the spread of fake news ultimately continues to impact democratic elections. To view the full article click here.
The rise of new media outlets such as social media as hubs for news consumption is deteriorating the boundaries between news, fake news, and advertisements, with damaging effects to democracy. In light of the recent elections in the US, UK, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, many fear that fake news has become a powerful and sinister force, both in the news media environment and fair and free elections. Such fears stem from the idea that as news consumption increasingly occurs via social media sites, audiences are finding themselves more likely to be drawn in by sensational headlines and thus to sources lacking accuracy or legitimacy. This draws into question how the public interacts with such outlets and to what extent and in which ways individual responsibility should govern our interactions with our news outlets and social media. Although we are learning more every day, we know little about the extent to which online audiences are exposed to fake news and how these outlets factor into the average digital news diet.
Essentially, the use of fake news is changing and distorting how political campaigns are run and are ultimately calling into question the legitimacy of elections, elected officials and governments. As studies continue, scholarship is increasingly confirming social media as an enabler of fake news and projecting its possibly negative impact on democracy, furthering the already existing practices of partisan selective exposure and heightening individual responsibility.
The article ends with a clarion call to the media, elected and national security officials, and concerned citizens about the increasing threat of fake news and its impact, not only on fair and transparent elections, and the democratic process and maybe the single most danger to the divide cultural and political divide of Americans
About Terry Lee
Terry Lee is a US-based, professional public affairs and political campaign strategist and commentator. He is a Senior Director with the national grassroots and digital political and public affairs firm Five Corners Strategies in its Washington DC offices.
After almost 2 decades as a national, state, and local grassroots political campaign and public affairs communications strategist, Terry has served in a variety of senior-level communications and public affairs positions, developing and managing national strategic communications and public affairs programs for various clients. He has several years of direct government or public service experience, having served in senior communications and media relations positions at the federal, state, and municipal levels, including the Clinton White House and the Office of the Mayor for the District of Columbia. Lee attended the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and holds a degree in Political Science and Economics from Vassar College. He is the author of PR ToThe People—A Step By Step Guide To Free (Positive) Publicity and has written articles for numerous publications; he is frequently tapped to share his expertise and insights on public policy and political digital media at various conferences.