Fake news as a two-dimensional phenomenon

Date Posted: June 1, 2019 Last Modified: June 1, 2019
Fake news as a two-dimensional phenomenon: a framework and research agenda Photo: Mohamed Hassan, Pixabay

This research paper conducts an extensive literature review and suggest that the term 'fake news' alludes to two dimensions of political communication: the 'fake news genre' and the 'fake news label'. While public concern is on the rise regarding the fake news phenomena, scholarly interest is heavily focused on the genre aspect of fake news. The authors connect the existing literature on fake news and present a theoretical framework to study it and formulate a research agenda. It concludes by suggesting a shift in scholarly attention to the neglected fake news label. 

  • The excessive use of the term 'fake news' has led to many scholars and public officials to suggest it should be retired. This paper suggests that this retirement is not feasible within the limits `of scholarly influence.
  • The authors suggest that fake news is a two-dimension phenomena: the fake news genre which is the intentional creation of disinformation news stories, and the fake news label which describes the political instrumentalisation of the term by political actors to delegitimise journalism and news media.
  • Since neither dimension is likely to disappear any time soon this distinction could help with further classification of the different trends in modern political communication for future research.
  • The focus tends to be on the fake news genre rather than the fake news label. However, the study suggests more emphasis in deconstructing the fake news label as it possibly affects how citizens perceive journalism in terms of accuracy and credibility.
  • The authors conclude that both the dimensions of fake news is harmful to journalism as a whole. It urges scholars to use the term more cautiously and argue that the term is not applicable to all instances of falsehood in the news environment. This term only describes two very specific instances of a crisis in democracy and must not be normalised to a much wider discourse.