The Definition of “Fake News”

On October 8, the politics section of CNN published an article named “Donald Trump Just Claimed He Invented ‘Fake News’” in which President Trump was criticized for his habit of labeling the real news that he does not agree with or portrait his negative side as fake, either on his Twitter or his speech. It might be understandable for President Trump’s misconceptions for the real news as a result of his trauma from the fake news derogating him in the 2016 elections. However, if the President got wrong, then, what is the fake news? And why they can get rid of filtering and spread out through the social media?

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The author, Claire Fallon, offers a simple answer to that question in her article on HuffPost. According to Clarie, “fake news” is a “straightforward and self-explanatory” term, which refers to any information from the news outlet that does not happen. Due to some human errors in the progress of generating news, the content of the news might deviate from the actuality. For instance, the Chinese national channel has reported that Muji Product, the largest international minimalist retail companies a wide variety of household and consumer goods from Japan, hides the producing origin of the snacks. According to the report, Muji has used stickers labeling “Made in Japan” to cover the producing origin of “Tokyo” printed in the package. Any food from Tokyo is actually under the list imported food ban due to the radial pollution from the explosion of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station. Therefore, the action of sticking labels is portrayed as cheating customers, and since the national channel has a vast amount of audiences, it has widely spread over the social media. Nevertheless, within 24 hours, the PR team of Muji has announced a statement that Tokyo is just the registering location of the company, rather than the producing origin. What is more, the copies of legal proof of the producing origin as well as the certificate of the quarantine issued by the Chinese customs have been attached to the statement. In this case, the news from Chinese national channel is considered as fake due to its inaccuracy during the process of investigation, but it does have the quality of social currency since it relates to people’s daily life and evokes the emotions from the public.

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But can accidental mistakes explain all the creation of fake news? Compared with the vast amount of fake news people received every day, merely the reason of mistakes seems not quite enough to thoroughly define fake news. After all, who else will take such an effort to merely make something up, just for fun?

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The answer might be surprising, but yes, some fake news is just for fun. For example, the satirical website thelastlineofdefense.org posted much fake news just to criticize the society using an ironical way. One of the most recent ones might be a story claimed President Trump is trying to stop the former president Obama to divert more than $8 million from the Department of Education’s Library Division, in order to build his personal library. The story itself has intended the seemingly patriotically narcissist tradition of building memorial libraries for the past presidents of the US. Of course, there is no such division at all, and Obama’s presidential center will be built as private property by using private fund support. By the end of such type of fake news, disclaimers are always provided.

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Lastly, besides the two types of fake news mentioned above, the majority of fake news is created to for particular political purposes. Through researches, a more convincing answer has shown up at Merriam-Webster Dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, the term “fake news” is defined as “a political story that is seen as damaging to an agency, entity, or person” and the use of the term can be traced back to more than 100 years ago. The close relationship of politics to fake news can be best explained by the series of derogatory news to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, during which the public attention to fakes news has also reached the peak for the past five years.

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With the growth of SNS, there might be more types of fake news generated. It is important to know the definition of fake news and thus keep a clear mind on identifying them from the massive news outlets since the only way to make rational decisions is by perceiving the information correctly.

 

4 thoughts on “The Definition of “Fake News”

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  1. Thank you for introducing so many information about fake news and the “straightforward and self-explanatory” definition of fake news is very accurate in terms of news outlet. In terms of public relation, fake news is what those PR professionals are dealing with all the time. Especially in such a digital era, each person is possible to become a “muckraker” spreading unreliable news. The fake news is a threat to ethical public relations.

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  2. I actually had no idea about the terminology of Fake news until I entered the United States. I thought it was a joke. But I must say your blog has some more interesting facts I had no idea about. Every time I read something about “Fake news” I discover something new. So thank you 🙂

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  3. Hi Meng,

    I remembered our professor mentioned this blog in class so I searched for it to know more about the term “fake news”. I’ve heard too many times of this term since 2016 but I never saw a clear definition of it. After reading your detailed explanation, now I know there are mainly three types of fake news. Politics is like a whirlpool. The existence of fake news makes it more complicated to me. Social media even adds a new dimension to politics, because anyone in the world can easily create, disseminate and amplify false information. Maybe it’s time to find out ways to enhance public information literacy so that fewer people will be affected by “fake news”.

    -Adeline

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