Written by Lyric Jain, Founder of Logically
The past couple of years have seen ‘fake news’ skyrocket from a niche political term to a fundamental part of our culture. The extent of its impact reaches far beyond the political realm, with its influence ranging from distorting financial markets to facilitating political extremism. Here are seven negative impacts that the spread of fake news has had.
The spread of fake news accelerated dramatically during the 2016 US Presidential Election campaign. Groups of teens in Macedonia were found to have been intentionally creating pro-Trump fiction, profiting from their ‘shareability’. A Russian propaganda group was found to have been creating pro-Trump fake news in order to give the impression that there was a strong grass-roots movement legitimately supporting his campaign. The influence of these activities is hard to quantify, but the emergence of fake news creation as a way to shape the political landscape is an undeniably dangerous issue.
Encourages Mistrust in Legitimate Media Outlets
Politicians have been able to capitalise on the widespread awareness of fake news to discredit media outlets that are critical of their work. In both the UK and the US, political parties have used the term ‘fake news’ to diminish the authenticity of reporting on either their own policy plans or that of their political opponents. The spread of fake news has also diminished the value that we place on expert knowledge or commentary as we become more critical, or even cynical, of the news that we read every day.
The personalised nature of our social media feeds means that we all inhabit our own personal echo chamber to some extent. Essentially, we have limited exposure to contradictory or challenging opinions because we curate our own feeds which results in the polarisation of views. The addition of fake news that is deliberately designed to look authentic worsens the problem dramatically. Extremist groups such as ISIS have successfully recruited over the past several years by use of their digital channels and the spread of misinformation.
Influences the Financial Markets
In 1803, fake reports of peace between France and England sent share prices in the London Stock Exchange soaring by 5% almost immediately. More recently, we have seen misinformation spread using platforms that include Twitter and Telegram as a way to instill confidence in particular cryptocurrency and, therefore, artificially inflate their value to the benefit of currency holders.
Bad for Business
Coffee-giant Starbucks had to temporarily close a branch in Atlanta after a post accusing a barista of mixing revolting substances into the food and drink of white customers went viral. Big corporations are becoming the targets of politically-motivated fake news campaigns increasingly often.
Damaging to Personal Reputation
The celebrity death hoax is an example of fake news proliferation that everyone is familiar with, but its not the only type of false stories that are written about the stars. Many different celebrities were targeted by fake news campaigns designed to discredit them. Tina Turner, for example, was reported to have expressed thanks for Donald Trump as president causing widespread outrage amongst her followers online. Inevitably, in these cases, a retraction of such news never spreads as far or wide as the original allegation and people suffer reputational damage as a result.
In India, WhatsApp is being used by groups to advance their own agendas behind the safety of the apps high level security. Fake news spread through the messaging app led mobs of people to believe that a man was guilty of child abduction. The man was killed by the mob before it was later discovered that he was innocent, and the allegations were entirely false.
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