The agenda-setting power of fake news

Date Posted: May 31, 2019 Last Modified: May 31, 2019
The agenda-setting power of fake news: A big data analysis of the online media landscape from 2014 to 2016 Photo: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

This study examines the agenda-setting power of fake news and online fact-checkers who fight against the spread of fake news. The research uses intermedia agenda-setting theory and the Network Agenda-Setting (NAS) model to assess the relationship between fake news, fact-checkers, and online news media. It also takes a computational approach to investigate the role of fake news in the online media landscape from 2014 to 2016. 

  • The study finds fake news content to be on the rise and that fake news was successful in pushing certain issues to a position of centrality in the news media agenda. However, fake news did not set the overall online agenda for the 3 years examined and its NAS power was observed to be shrinking. The findings point out the influence of partisan media over fake news instead of the reverse. Until 2016, partisan media tended to predict the network agenda of fake news.
  • In 2016, the relationship between the two groups were found to be reciprocal with fake news being more likely to influence and predict the network agenda of partisan media. Contrary to popular belief, the study results showed a greater likelihood of fake news influencing the issue agenda of liberal media than their conservative counterparts. However, fake news was found to be significantly influenced by both liberal and conservative media.
  • The study's result showed that fact-checking organisation did not necessarily follow the issue agenda of fake news. Ironically, fake news websites found issue "ideas" from fact-checking websites. Overall fact-checking websites did not predict the overall news media agenda online.
  • Aside from its growing influence on partisan media in 2016, the study found the overall influence of fake news on the entire mediascape unchanged.The study calls for further exploration on the relationship between fake news and partisan media.