Dezinformatsiya: The past, present and future of ‘fake news’

Date Posted: May 30, 2019 Last Modified: May 30, 2019
Dezinformatsiya: The past, present and future of ‘fake news’ Photo: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

 The political climate of the 21st century is rife with campaigns of  disinformation, misinformation and propaganda. It has increasingly become harder to judge what is true or false in an echo-chamber like world. This reflection paper prepared for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO looks into the trajectory of the phenomenon of "fake news" and how new technology has compromised the traditional anchors of authenticity.

  • The paper finds that it doesn't matter whether a viral story is true or false as long as it manufactures attention. While an incident could look true it might just happened to be stages and in these instances there is the danger of news media reporting on what the author calls plastic 'reality'.
  • With the rise of innovations in communication technology, it became necessary to win the opinions of the masses in order to achieve power resulting in public opinions becoming an arena of contestation and manipulation. The media began establishing fixed terms for what's 'real' and parameters of normalcy. By the turn of the 21st century, the media controlled and defined public discourse.
  • The rise of social media led to the diminishing role of traditional media and further the creation of content by amateurs on these platforms who owed nothing to the ideals of truth and social responsibility within good media organisations. This development has exaggerated the rise of fake content which piggybacks off the features of traditional media.
  • Anger was found to be the motivating force behind a majority of sites spreading fake news for political motives.
  • As a conclusive remark, the author argues that counter-measures against "fake news" are necessary yet insufficient to stop the persistent spread of "fake news". He cautions the return of the media ecosystem to the past period of pamphleteering (now powered by artificial intelligence) where anything people believe is up for grabs and differs from one constituency of the public to another.