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Fake News: Fake News Factors

Factors that Increase Bias

The specter of so-called fake news entered the public consciousness around the 2016 election, but alternative facts and falsified news have been with us for a long time. Examples: Fake News: Historical Timeline , U.S. Diplomacy and Yellow Journalism, 1895–1898, and Fake News? That's a Very Old Story.

Fake news may not be be new, but there are technological and societal factors that amplify its impact and spread.

  • Echo Chambers
    • Social Media is the perfect platform for spreading Fake News. It reinforces our own confirmation bias and spreads news within our own “echo” chamber of selected partisan sources. See the different Facebook feeds of conservatives and liberals
    • Personalized Web (Filter Bubble), such as tailored search engine results, directed ads that we see on web sites, etc.
  • Political Polarization
    • We believe fake news about the other side: Republicans are more likely to believe that Obama was not born in the US.
    • Democrats are more likely to believe that George W. Bush was complicit in 9/11.
    • See the journal article: Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election by Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow.
  • Media Proliferation 
    • The barrier to entry into the media market is lower.
    • It is easy to put up a Web site and easy to monetize it through advertising.
    • This fuels sensationalized (National Enquirer type) news -- anything that will get you to click. Example: teenagers in Macedonia
  • Declining Trust in the Media (and institutions in general)
    • Is this a both a cause and an effect? 
    • A 2018 Monmouth poll that shows this distrust may be getting worse. 
    • Gallup poll on Americans' Trust in Mass Media. 
    • The bad news: younger people are especially distrustful of media. See also the results of a Harvard poll reported in The Hill.
    • Both the Gallup and Monmouth polls show Republicans/conservatives report higher, and increasing, rates of distrust in media.

Attitudes toward Facts

"Fake news is a problem that threatens the very roots of modern democracy. Yet there’s no easy or simple solution."
-- Reboot Foundation


"The fake news crisis is ultimately a crisis of media literacy, and more than a third of students report rarely learning key media literacy skills like judging the reliability of a source."
-- Reboot Foundation


"You're saying it's a falsehood [but] ... our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that." 
-- Kellyanne Conway


"They may have a different version of the truth than we do."
"Truth isn’t truth." 

-- Rudy Giuliani


"Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods." 
-- Chuck Todd


"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."
-- Daniel Patrick Moynihan


"Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what's happening. Just stick with us, don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news."
-- Donald Trump


"The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth."
-- George Orwell, 1984

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