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How Real Is the Threat of Fake News?

Updated on August 22, 2018
ethel smith profile image

With a keen interest in British politics this writer is never afraid to share her opinion

Fake News

Fake News is a common phrase in 2018.

Since Donald J Trump was elected as President of the U.S,A. the term fake news has been hurled at journalists, news organizations, television reporters and more but one person’s fake news may be another person’s reality.

Here in the U.K. allegations of biased reporting and fake news are also being thrown around but whether fairly or not may depend on your political stance.

If you sit firmly on the right wing of politics any news source you criticize as biased or fake may be noted as fact by someone on the left wing of politics.

But fake news, real and or perceived, is playing havoc with democracy both sides of the Pond.

Propaganda, Satire And Spoof News Is Nothing New

Propaganda or spin as it is sometimes called has helped various countries beat the opposition be it military or economic.

Often propaganda has elements of truth and a lot of supposition but is also usually misleading, biased and pushing a particular view by presenting any facts in a selective manner.

Satire can and often does take a political news item and spin it on its head.

By using humour and caricature a serious news item can be ridiculed and exaggerated.

Spoof news items are a little different as they are fictionalized versions of in some cases real news.

All of the above have been around for a long time.

Donald Trump War On Fake News But Is It Real Or Perceived Fake News?

The Impact Of The Internet And Social Media

Dictators and political extremists have screamed fake news in the past and done so to suit.

Hitler’s Nazis used fake news or propaganda but to be fair the allies also utilized their own selective propaganda.

In the 21st Century the Internet and social media has added an extra dimension to fake news and the search for the truth is getting more difficult.

If a politician is not happy with a critical report it is all too easy for that person to shout ”fake” to the world without substantiating that claim.

The power of social media can take a tweet for example to millions of people and households and do so as quick as a flash.

When Pres. Trump takes to Twitter to complain and attack his critics as fake he reaches many people around the world.

Some publications and news channels may have hidden agendas due to their sponsorship and advertising but dismissing all challenging reports as fake is a dangerous game.

If you no longer believe reporters who will you believe?

Will it be an unknown blogger sharing an opinion piece or an unknown social media account with a virtual voice?

When Truth Is Not The Truth!

Election Interference

We are living in strange times and that’s a fact or is it?

If reports are true foreign agents interfered in the U.S. 2016 Presidential election and in the U.K. E.U. referendum of the same year.

Realists will know that political interference is nothing new.

What is new however is the tools currently available enabling countries to easily interfere in foreign affairs and elections.

Agents may use modern technology to undermine the western world’s democratic process but how real and far-reaching that threat is remains unclear.

As western governments debate restricting the Internet that path will also lead to more conspiracy theories.

Is fake news really such a huge problem now or is it being exaggerated to restrict free speech?

B.B.C. Accused Of Fake News In U.K.

Spotting Fake News

Have you heard the saying “if it looks too good to be true it probably is?”

Well in the case of some fake news it is just so ridiculous it is unbelievable and rightly so.

But this world is an odd place and strange things do happen.

If you are trying to figure out if a piece of news is fake or real consider:-

  • Is the report via a reputable, known source?
  • Are there other reports? Search online for the story to see if it is being shared and reported widely
  • Is it a news story or an opinion piece?
  • Are there any supporting links?
  • Have you read the full report as some headlines are designed to draw a reader in and too many offer a sensationalized glimpse of the real story?
  • Is the story posted as fact or is it satire or a spoof?
  • Are you reading the story without any personal bias in play?
  • Who is the author?
  • Was this news story shared by a person you know or a vague social media account online?

One way to limit the threat of fake news is to:-

  • Only share news that has been fact checked and is from a reputable source
  • Never assume a meme has factual information as a meme may state any number of alleged facts but may be far from the truth
  • Remember modern technology allows easy photo editing and manipulation

Fake Or Real?

Can You Spot Fake News?

See results

How Dangerous Is Fake News?

Fake news is potentially very dangerous.

It can undermine democracy, society and a country's population. It can also encourage unwarranted hate, bigotry, racism, misogyny and more

Simply alleging news is fake over and over again may result in people questioning their government, leaders, news, politicians, media, future news and more.

When President Trump dismissed reporters at his news conferences as fake he strikes at the heart of democracy.

When he declares reporters from publications which criticize him are fakes he belittles the Office of President and leads by a poor example, that of a spoiled child taken to task.

His actions and reactions open the door for conspiracy theorists to copy his example.

He is leading people along a dangerous slippery slope.

© 2018 Ethel Smith


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    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      22 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks RedElf. A friend in British Columbia is worried too. We have to hope good sense returns

    • RedElf profile image


      22 months ago from Canada

      Thoughtful and though-provoking piece. As one who lives much closer to the U.S., I see Trump as a scary guy sometimes. I try to ignore most of the hooha, but gee whiz... thanks for this sane reflection.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      22 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      We agree on this William. Maybe Trump’s goose is cooked now though?

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      22 months ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I agree entirely with Catherine Tally. The issue is being used by Donald J. Trumpery to confuse voters. He calls anything and everything he does not agree with "False News." In fact he created the term. Too many people fail to understand that most TV programs are not "News" programs; rather they are opinions by their hosts and guests "about the news -- not news itself. The only "news" on TV is that which simply states the facts that are verified by reporters for bonafide sources. Bonafide sources are newspapers or television news programs that have a track record of being truthful and have editors and publishers whose reputations are at stake. Computer Websites are only reliable after they have earned the reputation for honesty and truth over a period of time. Trumpery uses the term "fake news" to caste doubt about any report he does not like. That is dishonest, destructive and fascist.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      22 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Hi Liz

      I am getting suspicious of so much these days. But we have to trust some news sources

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      22 months ago from UK

      This is a very topical article. It makes me much more wary of the credibility of the news I see and read from the media.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      22 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks Don

      Yes opinion pieces are just that yet readers still get confused.

      I do agree that big difference between fake news and biased reporting

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      22 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thank you Peggy

      Yes I agree

      Propaganda exists and always has but these days malicious reports confuse citizens. Not sure how we fix this but we must all stay vigilant and not take news and opinion pieces as necessarily fact

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      22 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Decrying all reporters as "horrible people" and continually stating that everything is "fake news" is dangerous. It can definitely have the effect of eroding democracy. The news media must remain free and it is a check on people who would otherwise run amuck and do damage to our institutions of government. That being said, one must be cautious and do a bit of due diligence in determining what is real or what is propaganda.

    • hard sun profile image

      Don Shepard 

      22 months ago

      Good info. We all need to be on guard for real fake news. The perpetrators get sneakier all the time like how criminals always find news to get around laws. HUGE difference between biased news, fake news, and a news piece that just got something wrong. I also find it nerve racking when people respond to an opinion piece, in an opinion section as fake news.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      22 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Catherine we are living through odd times.

      Here in the UK some news sources are suspect and many have some bias and dismissing all thta we do like as fake is dangerous territory.

      Thanks Catherine

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 

      22 months ago from Los Angeles

      Real "Fake News" flooded FB and the internet before the 2016 elections on InfoWars, etc. Then, after the inauguration, we had the false crowd size data called "alternative facts." It has since become a "Trumpism" to discredit any news that isn't in the president's favor. No news should come from one source anyway if information is to be balanced. So much media today is political commentary rather than news reports. Pay attention and use your head. Constant phrase repetitions like "fake news" ,"witchhunt", etc. are a form of brainwashing, and it is bipartisan.


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