There is no such thing as ‘fake news’

PUBLISHED: 19:32 09 August 2017

PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

The news industry has a trust problem.

In the UK only 43% of people believe the news media can be trusted, according to the latest Reuters Digital News Report, down from 50% in 2016.

That has prompted a lot of soul-searching by the publishers, who are justifiably worried that a lack of trust lessens their ability to speak truth to power. That fall in trust can partly be attributed to the particularly polarising campaigns around Brexit and the US election and their aftermath, which has seen ‘the media’ often cast as the enemy of the people.

And much of that antipathy can be summed up by one now-ubiquitous phrase: ‘Fake news’. Barely a day passes without at least one publication, no matter its pedigree, facing accusations of being fake news.

But how exactly did a term that barely existed a year ago come to exert such a toll?

Towards the middle of 2016 Facebook had snatched the reins of news distribution from publishers. But a number of missteps on its part – chiefly the replacement of human curators of its trending stories by bots – created an environment in which highly partisan content got shared most often, no matter its source.

Infamously, a handful of Facebook savvy graduates in Georgia deliberately took advantage of this to create highly partisan, demonstrably fake stories that drove traffic to their sites from Facebook, purely to generate advertising revenue.

Publishers reporting on this started using ‘fake news’ as a term to describe the deliberate spreading of that misinformation in an attempt to game Facebook’s algorithms for traffic. Then, in November, a radical semantic shift occurred.

In the aftermath of Trump’s victory, partly attributed to the anti-media platform on which he ran, searches for “fake news” ballooned. Politicians in the US and UK found a handy catch-all term they could use to dismiss any negative coverage.

Even as the term entered the public consciousness with the meaning of ‘biased coverage’, publishers continued to use the term with its original definition of ‘deliberate misinformation’, increasing public awareness of the term itself, but not the nuances behind it.

Quite apart from the confusion that created, there’s evidence that the widespread use of the term is exacerbating a loss of trust in all news publishers, in part because of a quirk of digital publishing: News served through search and social looks largely the same, so it’s difficult for audiences to differentiate legitimate publishers from the rest of the news feed, and so cries of “fake news” hit them as hard as the Facebook traffic-gamers.

So it’s time that publishers stop using the term ‘fake news’. Whatever its origin, it now gives the powerful an easy way to appeal to the public’s mistrust of the press, and to dismiss the publications meant to hold them to account.

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.

Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European

If Yes, Name to appear in The New European

Latest articles

video Al Gore: No lie can live forever

Former US vice president talks Trump, Brexit and climate change denial.

This was neither up-to-date nor a poll. And not a single participant voiced their support for Hard Brexit

A recent poll by well-regarded academics suggested the vast majority of the British public now backed an extreme form of Brexit. Here‘s why that is not the case.

Parliament is filled with “spineless lemmings”

Brexit may not happen at all – when what we need are leaders, not followers, to win this battle

Leave.EU launch deselection bid in hope of dumping soft Brexit ministers out of their jobs

Leave.EU have launched a broadside on cabinet Remainers Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd in a bid to get the pair deselected.

Edward Enninful brings a new way of fashion thinking to Vogue

Fashion can be considered frivolous and in some ways it is.

My sense of humour failure over Brexit has helped clear Scotch mist

I don’t blame the Scots if Brexit leads them to want another shot at independence

The extraordinary story of how the humble spud created the modern world

The rise of capitalism and individualism in the West, and even the current reforms in China, can all be explained by the rise of the potato

Putin is just waiting for the right moment to spear Trump

Vlad the Lad is the supreme master of the macho man holiday snap...

The lesson of Singapore is not one Brexiteers want to hear

Long considered a lodestar of go-it-alone globalisation, Singapore now needs its neighbours more than ever

Truman vs. Macarthur brought the world to the brink as war raged over Korea

The dispute was an ominous warning of problems for our time over where ultimate power lies in the US

EU funding: Brexit’s other looming cliff edge

The loss of EU funding used to help poorer parts of the UK has had far less attention than other ill effects of Brexit. But it will soon be hard to ignore the problem.

Brexiteers, Trump America and the corruption of nostalgia

Manufactured nostalgia always has a political end. Its aim is to create new foot soldiers for The New Vision.

Generation Brexit: Why the young should fear the old

As the realities of Brexit and its economic impact become clearer, alarming generational splits are emerging

Thunder run to Seoul: North Korea’s war plan

As tensions in the Korean peninsula have risen, various apocalyptic scenarios for how a potential conflict might unfold have emerged.

There is no such thing as ‘fake news’

The news industry has a trust problem.

The Brexit vote has created a united Ireland, at least when it comes to the border

New Irish premier Leo Varadkar will play a defining role

Hamburg is the heartbeat of modern Germany

A seamy, subversive, self confident city, Hamburg is also a symbol of an outward-looking Germany

British industry: Brexit fiddles while the economy burns

Even without the complications of Brexit, Britain’s economy is in serious peril. But with attention elsewhere, is anyone in power actually listening?

Unis have grown fat on fees - what happens when the money stops?

The architect of the Labour’s introduction of student fees says the money charged is now nothing more than vice-chancellors profiteering

Enter the Senex: Leader of the Age of Anxiety

An idea for a movie that once upon a time no one would buy – because it was too improbable.


Watch us on YouTube

6 excellent reasons to go out and buy The New European this week

Views: 169

The rollercoaster ride of Theresa May's plummeting approval ratings

Views: 592

A year of failure and fiasco in May’s Number 10

Views: 406


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter