Fake news was the dominant themed around media ethics which prevailed in 2017. Otherwise known as yellow journalism, fake news is the practice of spreading misinformation. This can be done by traditional media outlets such as newspapers and television but social media is increasingly used for the distribution of so-called fake news. It is not an entirely new concept and shares many commonalities with propaganda, though it does differ from this is some notable ways.
The motivations behind fake news are complex. It has primarily been discussed as a political tool to promote or denigrate a particular candidate or party or fuel a social movement such as the alt-right. However, it can also be used simply to generate more revenue for a publication by posting sensational stories that will get lots of clicks and thus increase the advertising revenue of that particular website. The internet has made the spread of fake news not only much easier but also harder to spot. A professional looking website can be easily established and their content distributed through a simple advertising campaign.
The 2016 Presidental election was the first time that fake news os thought to have potentially had a major impact on the outcome of the election. The source of the fake news is still an ongoing question for American politics and society with many claiming that the Russian state was heavily involved in the production of fake news from content farms in Macedonia.
Research has suggested that as much as 30% of all traffic to fake news websites comes through Facebook, this is much higher than the 8% of traffic from Facebook which gives to traditional news outlets. Many people are calling Facebook to take actions on the issues of fake news in order to limit the spread of misinformation.
After initially denying that Facebook had any influence of the outcome of the US election, Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company would be taking steps to try and reduce the amount of fake news being spread by the website.
Campaigns have been launched by various organizations to try and make people question where they are getting their news from. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions published an infographic urging consumers to ask themselves questions such as, what is the source, who is the author, where are they getting their information from and if you are in doubt ask an expert.