Emerge Magazine 2017
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Photo by Karolina Grabowska/ STAFFAGE

Stop calling it Fake News

The term “fake news” is seemingly contradictory.

I think we should stop calling it fake news to further disassociate it from the word ‘news.’ It’s click bait; it’s ads; it’s propaganda; it’s fiction; it’s website traffic; it’s revenue,” said Matthew Magill, who studied psychology at York University. “It’s definitely fake but it is not news.”

Cameron McLeish, a tattoo artist from Toronto, agrees. “Why is it called ‘fake news’ and not ‘propaganda,’ ‘misinformation,’ ‘disinformation,’ or ‘libel?’’’ he said.

Photo: Drew Yorke-Slader

Why is it called ‘fake news’ and not ‘propaganda,’ ‘misinformation,’ ‘disinformation,’ or ‘libel?’

Craig Silverman, editor at BuzzFeed Canada, described how he debunks fake news stories, noting that they should be called propaganda or hoaxes instead. Silverman has been studying these stories for years and has talked about how they are mostly trending on Facebook. In recent articles, he said people are attracted to these stories because they are often one-sided and reinforce their own views.

This type of news was seen often during the American presidential election campaign. Journalists and others are talking about fake news right now because it has become a bigger problem lately and has slightly changed course, said Randal Marlin, author of Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion. “It used to be the government paying journalists to write fake news and now it’s simply anyone who writes something untrue,” he said.

There are two different kinds of fake stories, Marlin wrote, “the first being fakery, which is deliberate lying, and the second being ‘bullshit,’ which are things one purports to be true but doesn’t know or doesn’t care to check the facts.” A hoax is anything that is disguised as news but is not true and has the intention of fooling the reader.

Writing in The Globe & Mail, Evan Annett said the first category is considered fake news that can be created by anybody, but the second is just lazy journalism, which professional journalists should watch out for. It becomes hard for journalists to check the authenticity of facts when there is such a large volume of information and a lack of quality control. This is what makes it hard for readers to spot fake stories as well.

Photo: Drew Yorke-Slader

Annett created a quiz to see if readers could spot fake, satire or real news stories.

Simona Mannone, a Facebook user from Brampton, Ont., said: “Personally, I don’t think there is any simple way to determine lies without actually investigating each article,” she said. She started investigating fake news when she realized there was an abundance coming from the web aggregator and social media site Reddit.

Being able to spot fake news is important for democracy.

Annett said he is concerned with the fake news epidemic. “Being able to spot fake news is important for democracy,” he said. “The institution being trustworthy is important to me, other journalists, readers and the general public.”

Google and Facebook have recently created fact-checking systems to clear out fake stories.

Readers are doing their own fact-checking too. Brandon Ament, another Facebook user from Brampton, said he uses Snopes.com, created in 1995 to debunk urban legends, to check if a story is authentic or not.

Ashton Vaz, who studies biology at Ryerson University, said: “I just report it when I see it.”

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Nicole McIntyre

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Nicole's five favourite things are: tea, writing, cycling, sunshine and drinking too much beer.

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