The saying that “Don’t believe everything you read just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it” is true in the age of the Internet, especially the social media where fake news predominate.
Users of Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets thrive on the proliferation of fake news, which became the clarion call by President Trump during and after his presidential campaign and election. It is a recurring charge that he levelled against millions of ordinary Americans on social media to describe negative and hostile press coverage of his presidency and his agenda.
Fake news has become a ubiquitous term that is being used every day around the world by many public officials and ordinary citizens. But it is hard to believe that just about two years ago people barely ever used the term.
It blew up in the U.S Presidential election in 2016 election to describe the hoax articles published by some media outlets that cynically exploited readers of the biases and lies about Hillary Clinton storing fraudulent ballots in warehouses.
In what sometimes feels like a 24-hour social media-driven, fake newsis every so often humorous, at times political and most often personal. It has a tendency to spread very quickly across social networks, particularly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Simply put, fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate disinformation or bogus news spread by the traditional print and broadcast news media and more recently by social media. The false information occasionally finds its way into the mainstream media.
Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead the public and to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically. It is often sensational, dishonest, and outright fabricated headlines to increase readership. It is misleading and deceptive news that differs from obvious satire or parody, which is intended to amuse rather than mislead its audience.
The relevance of fake news has increased significantly for media outlets with the ability to attract viewers to their websites to generate online advertising revenue. Publishing a story with false content attracts users, which benefits advertisers financially and improves their ratings. Its easy access online has increased political polarization and the popularity of social media.
Facebook has been implicated in the spread of fake news, which competes with legitimate news stories. Political parties have also been implicated in generating and propagating fake news, particularly during elections. The truth is fake news undermines serious media coverage and makes it more difficult for journalists to cover significant news stories.
History has shown that fake news is actually pretty intuitive. As long as there has been fake news, there has been a simple way to describe it.
And while it was not always a favourite subject of many American presidents, politicians and news media, fake news or bogus news as it was called, has been around for over a century. The only thing that seems to have changed is the public’s genuine appetite for it now.
President Donald Trump is a counter-puncher by nature on social media, but his claim that he coined the term “fake news” is patently false. According to Merriam-Webster, the term ‘fake-news’ is a late nineteenth century phenomenon. It was cited in several news articles in the 1890s, including an 1891 article in The Buffalo Commercial that declared, “The public taste […] certainly has no genuine appetite for ‘fake news’…such as were served up by a local syndicate.”
At the time, Fake news was considered a neologism or a buzzword often used to refer to fabricated news. It was invoked by governments and politicians against the media for stories that they did not like or for comments made by their opponents against them. Those who had control of the reins of political power and who, ipso facto, had control of the flow of information to the public viewed fake news as a threat, which still exists today.
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