The media is no stranger to gossip. The British tabloids would be out of business if they didn’t fire up the rumour mill every now and again. On the whole, though, we rely on journalists to provide us with fair and accurate reports of what’s going on around the world.
Recently, something scary has been happening: fake news has infiltrated the media. The worst part is, we’re buying it.
It has shaken the core of our social media and online news outlets. As a population, we are left wondering what is real news, and what is simply all lies.
After its role in the recent U.S. Presidential campaign, fake news has left the American people losing faith and confidence in the media. In fact, recent research suggests that it has dropped to its lowest level, with only 32% of Americans saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.
Fake it ‘til you make it
It’s no surprise that many are struggling to trust everything they see and read now, especially when you take a look at one of the most prolific fake news examples from the U.S. election. Cameron Harris bought the Christian Times domain for $5 and published a story about ‘hidden fraudulent ballot boxes’ pre-filled with votes for Clinton.
As his fake story about secret ballot boxes spread like wildfire, it seemed to suggest that, regardless of how implausible, we are ready to accept things as fact if they support their own beliefs.
You can’t handle the truth!
With two-thirds of adults getting their news from social media, it’s easy to see why tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been in the firing line for promoting ‘fake news’. Facebook seems to have been made the poster child of fake news, and they have been working hard to change the algorithms.
Unfortunately for Facebook, it has already caught the attention of the British Government. MPs have released a warning, labelling social media a “threat to democracy (that) undermines confidence in the media in general”. MPs are now urging tech companies to tackle this problem. But is it too late? Like the need to share a good piece of gossip, is it our fault that fake news is so successful?
What does this mean for PR?
As an industry, we pride ourselves in providing truth and fact-checking, so it hurts to see the media infiltrated with these untruths. Social media is making everyone a ‘journalist’, and sensational stories can spread faster than they can be verified.
Fake news may have caused some damage, but it is up to us to as an industry to provide credibility. It is up to PR consultants and journalists to get the facts straight and shine the light on the lies. We can be the trusted sources for the media to turn to and whilst there will always be the saying ‘never let truth get it the way of a good story’, PR can now be the armour in the battle against fake news.