"The pope endorsed Donald Trump"
"Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS"
"FBI agent investigating Hillary Clinton found dead in a murder-suicide"
What do those three “stories” have in common? They were some of the most shared posts on Facebook in the three months before the election — and they’re all fake.
“[Fake news] is often described as black or white, it’s either real or it’s fake,” journalism professor Adam Kuban said. “That may be true but I think where we are seeing this phenomenon become increasingly complicated is that … there are degrees of fake news, not all fake news is created equal.”
In an era where lies are being dressed-up as “alternative facts,” it can be difficult to discern what is the truth.
A recent study by Stanford University surveyed over 7,000 students and
found that nearly two-thirds of middle school students couldn’t find a
reason to mistrust a post written by a bank executive, and four out of 10
high school students believed a photoshopped picture was legitimate.
In response, Bracken Library and the College of Communication, Information and
Media gave a presentation Wednesday on the history of fake news, how people can better discern between fact and fiction and how misinformation
affects the political atmosphere.
The subject of “fake news” has been in the headlines a lot lately, but as
Kuban said, the lines have become increasingly blurred.
Kellyanne Conway, senior
adviser to Donald Trump, recently referenced the non-existent “Bowling Green massacre."
White House press secretary Sean Spicer has also made headlines for going head-to-head with the media and referring to misstating facts about terror attacks.
Telecommunications professor Phil Bremen spoke about hostility toward the news media from Trump's administration. Bremen said when Trump calls real news “fake,” it can cause problems.
“It is difficult to have accountability in a
system where you can’t put your finger on the fact,” Bremen, a former
NBC news correspondent, said. "It's interesting when people in the political sphere, including those
in the white house and close to it, buy into it and spread the
Political science professor Sean Hildebrand said purporting lies has always happened
in the history of governments, however.
Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early '90s,
stories began floating around that former soviet president Vladimir
Lenin’s corpse would be sold at auction.
The Associated Press
picked up the story, and the it even aired on ABC World News
Tonight with Peter Jennings. The story proved to be totally false.
"Absolutely nothing new about
that," Hildebrand said. "There has always been obfuscation in some way,
you always just want to make yourself look better than you can."
said he personally looks into every piece of news he sees and said
that people should not fall into "echo-chambers" — meaning they should explore both sides
"If you don't really take that next step and say
'are you serious?,' then yeah, it becomes a little bit
more important and people start to believe it and buy it," Hildebrand said.