The media’s power has greatly increased over the past few decades due to technological advancements. Globalization and accessibility to the internet have both had a hand in amassing the power that the media has nowadays. But with all that power, it is up to the media whether it will inform the public with precise, informative news that stems from multiple, trustworthy sources, or whether it will push its own agenda to the general population. The news anchors cannot really do anything about what they say, as they are paid to read off a script, but it is the news outlets and the people in charge of them (who write the scripts the news anchors read off of) who have the responsibility to check facts and see if the news isn’t fake.
“Fake news is also spread faster and significantly more than truthful news on media. Research conducted by Soroush Vosoughi and colleagues of his at MIT showed that truthful tweets on Twitter took roughly six times as long as fake ones to be shared to 1500 people across Twitter. This is due to the fact that falsehoods were 70% more likely to be retweeted than the truth, even after variable factors such as number of followers, person’s account age and the user’s activity level were taken into consideration. And what is interesting is that unlike what is widely believed, people are more likely to spread false news than automated accounts.” (Taken from New Scientist no. 3169, 17th March 2018, pg 18)
As of lately, the term “fake news” has first been coined by the current US president Donald Trump during his electoral campaign in 2016. Although his views, ideologies and various actions he has done or will do in the future are extremely divisive, one must admit that he has a point in this matter. Although there are a few news outlets that provide information that is backed with legitimate sources, many nowadays are either biased towards a political party, or strive to push their own agendas to the public.
People all have different opinions and views on certain matters, and so they all need a source that provides them with information about what is currently going on in their country or around the world (but from the same perspective as the people watching). After all, the end goal of the news is to make a profit by reeling in as many people as it can, so to a few news outlets, whether the news is fake or not doesn’t really matter (unless they are called out on it), as long as they are the first to report it or if it can increase the viewers watching them. This ideology is not morally right, and is tremendously undemocratic, ironic given that the free media is said to be one of the main factors of democracy.
It is vital, in a democracy, for the news not only to be unbiased and not to have an ulterior motive (such as push the agenda of a political party or the agenda of the business running the news company), but for facts being presented by them to the people to be precise and correct.
Elon Musk has been targeted by many journalists a few weeks ago after he announced on Twitter that he would be making a website dedicated to the fact checking of the articles and news that the media is giving to the public, along with giving journalists ratings based on how accurate their articles are. This backlash from the journalists undermines the core value of democracy, since what Musk is doing is completely legal, and the website’s intention is to serve as a watchdog as to what information the media is providing to the population. A few journalists have attacked Musk when he announced this website (in some cases even personally attacking him and saying that he disrespects women), and many people think that they have done this because they will be called out for the fake news they have published in the past, which will ruin not only the journalist’s reputation, but also the reputation of the news outlet.
The link below shows an example of a Twitter thread of the journalists attempting to throw Musk’s reputation under the bus, with the man himself replying to show what hypocrites these journalists are.
Nowadays, with the internet being saturated with content, one cannot know for sure whether the news they are viewing is real or fake. The trust the general public has for the media and the news outlets in general has recently plunged dramatically, as many people have opened their eyes and realized that much of the news being reported is undeniably fake. Trust in media plunged from 51% to 43%, with the sharpest falls in Ireland, Australia, Canada and Colombia [Source: Financial Times, Anna Nicolaou and Chris Giles].
The reasons for fake news are many, but it can be mainly summarized to pushing a specific agenda regarding a favoured political party or beliefs and to get as many viewers as possible. The idea of a website which can help one to determine if an article is fake or not will have massive repercussions in the trust of the media. It is up to the future generations of this world to decide on whether it wants to listen to lies but maintain profits, or to listen to the truth.
Written by: Matthew J. Cassar