Fake News Essay

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When does “fake news” become “real news,” if ever?

How did fake news affect the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election?

Has fake news been used by foreign powers to adversely affect U.S. interest at home and abroad?

How can people tell for certain when news is fake?

What is being done about the proliferation of fake news?



I.  Abstract

II. Introduction

III. Review and Discussion

A.  What is fake news?

B.  The potential impact of fake news

C.  Responses to fake news

IV. Conclusion


Title:  A Real Look at the Fake News Phenomenon



So-called “fake news” has become increasingly commonplace in recent years due in large part to the proliferation of social media platforms such as Facebook that are either unable or unwilling to stop their spread as well as numerous Web sites such as the National Reporter that specialize in publishing fake news reports. This essay reviews the relevant literature to provide a definition of fake news, its potential impact and recent responses to this phenomenon. Finally, the paper provides a summary of the research and important findings concerning fake news in the conclusion.


Although so-called “fake news” has been around as long as humankind in the form of rumors, gossip and innuendos, the phenomenon has become increasingly commonplace in recent years due in large part to the widespread use of social media platforms and the emergence sources such as National Report and Empire News that intentionally attempt to deceive their readers with authentic-sounding news reports.

Thesis Statement

To determine the facts, this paper reviews the relevant literature about fake news, its potential impact and what steps are being taken in response, followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues in the conclusion.

What is fake news?

According to the definition provided by Black’s Law Dictionary (1990), “fake” means “to make or construct falsely, something that is not what it purports to be; counterfeit” (599). In the context of the news, it is easily possible to report facts that are not accurate but they are not intentionally falsified. By contrast, fake news intentionally seeks to deceive readers by making reports sound sufficiently authentic...
...Fake news, though, is certainly not a new phenomenon. For example, Omilian reports that, “Fake news has existed in some form for centuries. Back in 1801, Thomas Jefferson noted, ‘as for what is not true, you will always find abundance in the newspapers’” (A8).

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More recently, though, fake news has become virtually ubiquitous with publishers such as National Report and Empire News flooding the Internet with fake news stories and some analysts are concerned that the trend represents a threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad. In this regard, Omilian points out that, “The widespread dissemination of fake news had real impacts on political discourse and has steadily eroded the general public's trust in media outlets across the political spectrum” (A8). Some newspapers such as The Onion (recent headline:  “World Agrees To Just Take Down Internet For A While Until They Can Find A Good Use For It”) intentionally publish stories that are clearly fake and readers are expected to know the difference. By contrast, fake news stories intentionally mislead readers – and many cannot discern the difference. As Dewey emphasizes, the publisher “National Report has already proven the reliability of Facebook users ... determining fact from fiction. (In other words: They can't.)” (3).

What makes the stories published by National Report and their ilk is the manner in which these stories are framed and titled, making them appear sufficiently credible for people to believe what they are reading. In many cases, this belief translates into revenues for fake news publishers. In this regard, Dewey notes that, “Their business model is both simple and devastatingly effective: Employ a couple unscrupulous freelancers to write fake news that's surprising or enraging or weird enough to go viral on Facebook; run display ads against the traffic; gleefully cash in” (3).

The potential impact of fake news

Although the overwhelming majority of fake news stories are recognized as such as and little or nothing comes of them, a few stories have had a real impact on events in the U.S. and abroad (Frank 315). In support of this assertion, Frank cites a number of fake news stories that were already being published online in mid-2013 with the following headlines:

Israel to Dismantle Settlements, Recognize Palestinian State;
United States to Destroy All Nuclear Warheads;
Sarah Palin Calls for Invasion of Czech Republic; and,
Republican Bill Demands Immigrants 'Americanize' Their Names.

While these headlines sound plausible to many readers because they conform to conventional journalistic style, were published on Web sites that resembled legitimate news organization sites and contained information that many people want to believe, none of these stories was real (Frank 316). Likewise, some recent headlines posted by the National Reporter sound true, but on closer examination it becomes clear these headlines are also fake news:

Putin Declares U.S. Inauguration Day a Russian National Holiday;
Area Mall Offering 10% Discount to Non-Active Shooters;
Trump Receives Honorary Degree from Electoral College; and,
Sarah Palin Calls Wilma Flintstone “America’s Most Admired Woman.”

While these headlines may be amusing on their face to more discerning readers, they have the potential to cause unexpected and even tragic outcomes. For instance, the fake news reports concerning a pedophile sex ring being operated in the back of a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC that resulted in a North Carolina man actually driving there are firing an assault…

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