By looking more closely at how false information moves and mobilizes people, we can develop a richer picture of not only how much fake news circulates and how it resonates amongst varying publics. This column is exploring new and more subtle ways of looking at the fake news phenomenon and how our lives are mediated in an age of data platforms. Here is what we found why reports of events don't match outcomes.
Six months after the United States elections, where media reports affirm a Democratic Party victory but the results return Republicans as winners. Since then, fake news remains high on media, political and public agenda; sparking off a wave of concern in countries around the world. This is because without reliable and truthful information governments cannot plan and communications will turn awry. Media and technology companies have established new projects charged with ten thousand person units to deal with them-leading to concerns about solutions. Governments and public institutions have launched investigations to research and respond to these issues.
The term: fake news has become a keyword for both the media and political parties who contest it. Those institutions do not want the public to know it as corrupt enrichment. Driven by countless reports, opinion columns and despite numerous attempts to declare the issue dead, the issue endures like an endless argument where no one could give a convincing judgment. Amidst the panic, what are we to make of this politicized issue? How we are to collectively respond to this phenomena is the centre of our concern.
As a researcher of economic, social and cultural inquiry, I have been engaged in some projects tracing the production, circulation and reception of fake news online and to see how we might bring fresh perspectives to this debate. This is fascinating object of inquiry because of its highly contested character which tells us the nature of social institutions whose functions we may not usually notice as does social feelings and blind spots.
Our concern isn't just because fake news is being exploited routinely by advertisers, the media and politicians but rather that the rules and norms that bind us together are being violated- perhaps for fun, profit or political gain. But in following fake news online, we encounter not only rogue producers, propagandists but also xenophobic and hyper partisan mobilizations. We also learn about the patterning and politics of collective life online, with different technological and economic modes of organization that undergird it.
Here, we have the uncanny perception that, in hot pursuit of the perpetrator, is a trail leading to our doors as media practitioners. The platforms at the centre of fake news can be understood, not as black boxes but as relational achievements that involve and evolve alongside our own lives online and on the social media.
One can make the point that holder of the fake news weapon is not the only one with blood on his hands. Indeed, the issue can be leveraged as an opportunity for reflection, economic imagination, thoughtful attention with ambitious interventions around the platforms and infrastructures which pattern our lives in this digital age.
Beyond becoming more efficient at work as media practitioners, there are many ways of seeing fake news. One, fake news challenges binary conceptions of fakeness. Two, fake news challenges sharp distinctions between content and circulation. Three, fake news is driven by corruption. It is made possible by the economics and the platforms of the web. Finally, fake news websites and initiatives responding to them often have different publics. Fake news was responsible for the failure of the media to predict Brexit, Buhari's and Donald Trump's victories. Fake news is fueling distrust for the media. It is painting the media as being corrupt.