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Understanding Fake News: history, origins, solutions


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Slides for "Fake News: Why It Matters and How to Fight It" an event hosted by Eugene Public Library, May 23 2017.

"UO Journalism professors Damian Radcliffe and Peter Laufer
explore the current debate about fake news. These information experts will offer historical insights, contemporary analysis, and practical tools to empower the public in telling fact from fiction."

Published in: Internet
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Understanding Fake News: history, origins, solutions

  1. 1. Understanding  Fake  News Damian Radcliffe University of Oregon May 2017
  2. 2. Traditional Definition News written and published with the intent to mislead, in order to gain financially or politically.
  3. 3. Why it matters “Stories that are provably false, have enormous traction… and are consumed by millions of people.” Michael Radutzky, a producer of CBS 60 Minutes
  4. 4. Some recent examples
  5. 5. Distinctions • Not the same as news satire. • Fake news is a type of yellow journalism. Little  or  no   researched   stories  that   became   popular  in  19th century   Based  upon   sensationalism  and   crude  exaggeration
  6. 6. Is the term a misnomer? Fake News means: “Stories that are fabricated out of thin air. By most measures, deliberately, and by any definition, that's a lie.” Guy Campanile, also a 60 Minutes producer
  7. 7. Origins
  8. 8. Fake News and propaganda • In theory, Fake News may be divided into: - That which is made for profit - Propaganda meant to influence • We may also distinguish between: - People who spread it unintentionally - Those who spread it with an intent
  9. 9. Transformative technologies • The advent of the printing press in the 15th century revolutionized access to / dissemination of information. • Invention and the mainstreaming of the Internet widened access and the power to spread information. Including fake news.
  10. 10. Pre-dates even that • Demonstrable in 1st century B.C. • Power struggle between Augustus Caesar’s successors Octovian and Anthony led to a smear campaign. • Mark Antony committed suicide following misinformation.
  11. 11. Historic examples: 1600s 17th Century • Publications became widespread. • No standard of journalistic ethics to follow. • With Galileo’s trial, the demand for verifiable news increased.
  12. 12. Historic examples: 1700s 18th Century • Publishers of fake news fined and banned in the Netherlands. • Gerard Lodewijk van der Macht, banned four times by Dutch authorities. Each time he moved and restarted his press.
  13. 13. 1782: Boston, USA • Benjamin Franklin spread fake news to intensify the American revolution.
  14. 14. Historic examples: 1800s 19th Century • The Great Moon Hoax of 1835.
  15. 15. Historic examples: 1900s 20th Century • Anti-German (fake) stories that the Germans ran factories using human fat as raw materials published during WWI. • New York Times reporting on Russia, fake news scandal, 1932–1933.
  16. 16. Present Day
  17. 17. How it works As it always has: • Fake news often employs eye-catching headlines or fabricated news stories to increase readership. Plus: • As in the case of internet-based stories, online sharing and click/view revenues.
  18. 18. What’s different • Easier to do than ever. • Designed to deceive readers. Ø And to maximize traffic and profit. • New platforms (Facebook, Google Ads, Search, Programmatic) don’t distinguish fact from fiction. • Lack of visual clues: fake vs real look same.
  19. 19. Macedonian teenagers • Many online pro-Trump fake news stories were created in a small city in Macedonia by teenagers paid to generate sensationalist stories.
  20. 20. Large reach in 2016 election • Voters interacted with more fake news on Facebook than with real news. (Source: BuzzFeed)
  21. 21. The rise of the bots
  22. 22. Realistic looking websites
  23. 23. Case Studies
  24. 24. Mainstream Media • Bret Baier, Fox News
  25. 25. Social Media
  26. 26. Eric Tucker Tweet
  27. 27. Trumpspeak
  28. 28. What can we do?
  29. 29. Consume content critically
  30. 30. Understand the ecosystem
  31. 31. Research / Measure
  32. 32. Not unique to the USA • Italy • India • Germany • China
  33. 33. Moving forward
  34. 34. Some measures being taken • Fact-checking sites such as and, have posted guides to spotting and avoiding fake news websites. • Facebook and Google taking measures to combat fake news. • In April 2017, Jimmy Wales announced Wikitribune.
  35. 35. New tech-led solutions
  36. 36. More research Q: Do we overstate the problem? Fabricated stories favoring Trump were shared a total of 30 million times, nearly quadruple the number of pro- Hillary shares in the run-up to the election, says Stanford’s Matthew Gentzkow. Even so, he and his co-author found the most widely circulated hoaxes were seen by only a small fraction of Americans.
  37. 37. See the opportunity
  38. 38. Email: Twitter: @damianradcliffe Web: Thanks for listening.