Tackling emergence of ‘trumped-up’ news

Nicola Adam, Group Editor
Nicola Adam, Group Editor
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I think it is safe to say it is increasingly difficult to identify what is or is not true online and across social media.

Misinformation and clickbait nonsense is as common as photos of celebrities who have lost seven stone eating baby food and humorous memes of DonaldTrump.

Of course this is where the good old reliable news media comes in.

As a general rule, most people know which organisations they can trust and which they can’t - and most of the time that comes down to good old journalistic integrity .

Of course, it is fairly galling for a news reporter to be accused of being late with a ‘story’ when what they are actually doing is checking if it is factual .

Nonetheless, being apparently scooped by a grandma with a smartphone who is absolutely definite she has snapped Elvis alive and well, is frustrating.

Being first with a story is important to any genuine news organisation, but with the possible exception of once a year on April 1, being accurate and providing a decent service for their readers is far more crucial in the long term.

Mistakes are made, but they are genuine and not made deliberately or with malice.

So it is with genuine fear that most decent journalists have watched the emergence of the trend for ‘fake news’.

This is something which came to the fore during recent election campaigns.

Shockingly, analysis has shown that ‘trumped up’ news stories outperformed legitimate news stories - with 20 top fake stories gaining more engagements (i.e shares, likes and comments) than factually accurate ones.

The best performing story ahead of the US election claimed the Pope had endorsed Trump as President.

Understandably, Facebook fake-news writer Paul Horner - owner of a viral-news hoax empire - claimed responsibility for the shock election result.

This means hundreds of thousands of people potentially voted in the new leader of the free world because they read some made-up baloney on Facebook or Twitter.

They are calling it the ‘post truth era’ when what you choose to believe to be true, must be true.

Understandable perhaps, in an age of information overload, but terrifying in its scope to mislead, spin and wilfully shape our world through lies.

HG Wells was more prescient than we realised.