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Fake news talk comms cymru 2017


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Across 18-19 April 2017, the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee published the 79 written submissions to its Fake News Inquiry. These submissions show us that we need to devote much more attention to addressing emotive, targeted deception by professional persuaders and the Public Relations (PR) industry, and that this issue may merit its own parliamentary inquiry into Deception in Political Campaigning. I discuss this in relation to two deceptive, emotive political campaigns from 2016 - the US presidential election and the UK's referendum on Brexit.

Published in: News & Politics
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Fake news talk comms cymru 2017

  1. 1. Vian Bakir
  2. 2. Bakir, V. 2018. Intelligence Elites and Public Accountability: Relationships of Influence with Civil Society. Routledge. And coming soon …
  3. 3. Did fake news influence 2016 US presidential election?  Maybe!  See: “Donald Trump as President? Thank Facebook.” EzyInsights, November 1 2016. trump-as-president-thank-facebook/ Facebook spread 2 categories of fake news  Deceptive/emotive messages (esp. captioned images) from far right online news outlets eg Breitbart.  Stories that look like news from other news outlets, but that are made up
  4. 4. Breitbart is …
  5. 5. Breitbart - On candidate’s personality
  6. 6. Breitbart - On ‘Establishment’ News Media
  7. 7. Breitbart - On Voters
  8. 8. Breitbart - On Policy Issues
  9. 9. Stories that look like news from other news outlets
  10. 10. Silverman’s analysis: a top 20 false election story (by Facebook engagement)
  11. 11. Fact-checker Snopes rates this story part true, part false
  12. 12. 960,000 Facebook shares, likes & comments Stories that look like news from other news outlets
  13. 13. Fact-checker Snopes rates this story false
  14. 14. Stories that look like news from other news outlets BuzzFeed - most viral fake news stories (2016) “Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge Of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide” ( “Woman arrested for defecating on boss’ desk after winning the lottery” ( “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement” (Ending the Fed) “Trump Offering Free One-Way Tickets to Africa & Mexico for Those Who Wanna Leave America”
  15. 15. Cummings, D. 2017. How the Brexit referendum was won. The Spectator, 9 Jan.
  16. 16. What is fake news?
  17. 17. What is fake news?
  18. 18. What is fake news?  Wardle finds 7 types (First Draft 2017):  false connection (headlines, visuals or captions don’t support content)  false context (genuine content shared with false contextual info)  manipulated content (genuine imagery/info manipulated to deceive)  misleading content (misleading use of info to frame issue/person)  imposter content (genuine sources impersonated)  fabricated content (100% false, designed to deceive/harm)  satire/parody (has potential to fool but no intention to harm)  Fake news is either wholly false or contains deliberately misleading elements incorporated within its content or context (Bakir & McStay 2017).
  19. 19. What is fake news?  Contemporary fake news is widely circulated online where people accept as fact stories of uncertain provenance or accuracy
  20. 20. Solving the complex web of fake news Lessons from Deception in Political Campaigning
  21. 21. Fake News Inquiry submissions propose we focus on …  Education  to increase people’s media/digital literacy so they can recognise fake news  Media organisations  to promote pluralistic media economy so quality news outlets can flourish  to encourage journalists to tell truth  Digital intermediaries eg Google, Facebook  to divert funds from their digital ad revenue streams to support financially struggling news outlets  to promote real news & downgrade fake news sites
  22. 22. Fake News Inquiry submissions propose we focus on …  Advertisers  to consider health of media landscape with Google/Facebook duopoly in digital ad market  to ensure behavioural ad systems don’t incentivise fake news creation  Professional persuaders and PR  to regulate political campaigning to avoid deception
  23. 23. Fake News Inquiry submissions propose we focus on … 1. Education 2. Media organisations 3. Digital intermediaries eg Google, Facebook 4. Advertisers 5. Professional persuaders and PR
  24. 24. Focussing on professional persuaders & PR  Problematic culture of deceit  Public attitudes on standards in public life value honesty & telling truth - UK Committee on Standards in Public Life  We need to change actors’ incentives to mislead to win elections/achieve policy goals - Prof Lewandowsky et al (Univ of Bristol)  PR industry must be less deceptive -Bakir et al (Bangor Univ)  Politicians should always offer arguments based on evidence/analysis - Lilleker et al (Bournemouth Univ)
  25. 25. Pew Research Centre 2017
  26. 26. Ipsos Mori 2016
  27. 27. Ipsos Mori 2016
  28. 28. Ipsos Mori 2016
  29. 29. Focusing on professional persuaders & PR  Many urge regulation of political campaigning  QC (K.P.E.Lasok QC)  academics  Mark Leiser (Univ of Strathclyde) New Political Communication Unit (Royal Holloway Univ of London)  Martin Moore (King’s College London)  website on the strategies, appeal & effectiveness of political ads (  factchecking charity (Full Fact)  citizen/consumer interests charity (Voice of the Listener)
  30. 30. Focusing on professional persuaders & PR  But, to protect freedom of political speech, new censorship should be proportionate measure of last resort  IMPRESS The Independent Monitor for the Press  Public Relations and Communications Association  international charity to empower local media worldwide to give people news they need (Internews)  academic historians of propaganda, comms & rumour (Coast et al, Bath Spa Univ)
  31. 31. media freedom is increasingly fragile in democracie Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2017
  32. 32. Focus on professional persuaders & PR indirectly - how journalists use sources  more transparency of sources in news content & policy debates, eg use of think tanks & their research  Bakir et al (Bangor Univ)  Tobacco Control Research Group (Univ of Bath)  typology of deception (lies, omissions, distortion, misdirection, bullshit) to enable journalists to better recognise & avoid propaganda  Bakir et al (Bangor Univ)
  33. 33. Does Fake News Matter? Yes!  It produces wrongly informed citizens  Echo chambers mean many stay wrongly informed  It produces deliberately affective content
  34. 34. Does Fake News Matter? Yes!  If fake news circulates, uncorrected, in closed communities; if people are indoctrinated to disbelieve truthful facts by damaging the reputation of mainstream news; and if that fake news is deliberately affective, inflammatory and deceptive, this is bad news for democratically informed citizens, and for democracy itself.
  35. 35. Does Fake News Matter? Yes!  If losers lose an election or referendum or policy decision based on what they perceive to be the winners’ false claims, then ensuing social discontent with the democratic outcome and process is likely. The logical end result is highly polarised societies, losers’ decreased confidence in government’s legitimacy, and inappropriate democratic decisions taken based on affective misinformation and disinformation.
  36. 36. Next steps  Across 2017, UK Information Commissioner’s Office is inquiring into how voters’ personal data is being captured/exploited in political campaigns.  What about a Parliamentary Inquiry into Deception in Political Campaigning ?
  37. 37. Resources …  Vian Bakir & Andrew McStay (2017). Fake News and The Economy of Emotions: Problems, causes, solutions, Digital Journalism Pages: 1-22. DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1345645.  Analysis of fake news solutions offered by tech, journalism & marketing industries at SXSW (Austin, Texas, 2017)  Offers practical recommendations for communications industries & regulators.
  38. 38. Resources …  My submissions to UK fake news inquiry (2017)  They offer recommendations to counter fake news  With A. McStay (Bangor Univ.) Fake News: Media Economics and Emotional Button-Pushing.  With P. Robinson (Univ. of Sheffield), D. Miller (Univ. of Bath) and C. Simpson (American Univ.) Fake News: A Framework for Detecting and Avoiding Propaganda.
  39. 39. Resources …  Vian Bakir & Andrew McStay. COMBATTING FAKE NEWS: ANALYSIS OF SUBMISSIONS TO THE UK PARLIAMENT’S CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT COMMITTEE FAKE NEWS INQUIRY. Three-D Issue 28. 05/05/2017  Analysis of Fake News Inquiry’s 78 submissions received by Jun 2017.  Provides overview of solutions offered by the submissions, & assesses which solutions are most needed/useful.
  40. 40. Resources …  Bakir, V. and McStay, A. 2017. Was it ‘AI wot won it’? Hyper-targeting and profiling emotions online. UK Election Analysis 2017. Bournemouth University. the-digital-campaign/was-it-ai-wot-won-it-hyper-targeting-and-profiling- emotions-online/  Analysis of hyper-targeting and profiling emotions online in EU Referendum campaign