While this appellation sounds very modern (and, in fact, it is), the phenomenon of fake news is nothing new. We can ratify it to the propaganda or counter-information used throughout history, from terrorist groups to different governments, passing through all kinds of political groups and communities.
However, in modern fake news, there is a factor that did not exist before: the power of the Internet as a communication channel .
Fake news are supposedly manipulated or totally false news of today, used with a very specific political-social purpose, and which are published mainly in online media
Before, to set up a means of communication required the availability of financial resources : a rotation and a newsroom (paper), studies and transmission licenses for a television or radio channel, among others. With the advent of the Internet, free of charge, we can create a means of communication and spread our new releases and news.
This has also facilitated information on the part of some interests, for example, did you know that Pope Francis recommended American Catholics to vote for Donald Trump? In fact, it was posted by a serious looking website, but Pope Francis never commented on it, nor would it make any sense.
These are the secrets to releasing fake news: on the one hand, the likelihood (that the news is not exaggerated, but that it seems to have happened) and, on the other hand, that the medium in which it is published seems serious
This last point is easy to comply with: these days, WordPress hosting and a suitable template can offer us a website that looks as professional as a New York Times or Washington Post rotary, among others. And all this for a few dollars.
The first condition is the description of the news so that the reader can believe it.
The purpose of fake news is to try to convince undecided people about the supported thesis and keep their followers inside a bubble of self-convince.
For example, in Spain, there is a proliferation of publications that, from time to time, explain the atrocities committed by Muslim immigrants in other countries, mainly in northern Europe
Why from Northern Europe? Simple: because it is difficult to want to prove the veracity of news published by these media because of the language (they are written in Swedish, Finnish, German or Danish, for example) and the lack of knowledge of these countries.
Thus, the key phrases in these press releases are “local media claim that […]” without explicitly citing the names of these media as this could contribute to rumor detection.
When an individual is already inclined to accept that immigration is a problem and that immigrants commit disorder, this type of news ends up convincing them and gives more arguments to those who were already convinced by these racist theses.
Unmasking this type of false news is very easy: just look for local news outlets – if you don’t understand the language well, just translate it on Google Translator – to check if this news really exists.
Thus, news of violations or attacks by immigrants are easily dismantled when there is a consultation with the local media where the facts allegedly happened, or even when they are researched on social networks and with local residents.
Some fake news is supported by supposed graphical tests, such as photographs and/or videos. Many of them are manipulated or correspond to other information.
For example, recently, news circulated that in an English city, people of Muslim confession had violently instigated drivers to leave their vehicles because it was Ramadan and, to demonstrate this fact, they attached a video
This video ended up demonstrating that it corresponded to other facts (more specifically, the celebration of drunken fans of a football team), but out of context it was likely that it could correspond to such news, which it reinforced.
Fake news can also be partial manipulations of real news.
For example, during citizens’ demonstrations in favor of the independence process in Catalonia, some avowedly unionist newspapers illustrated this news with photos of clashes between protesters and police from either Germany or the United States. In this way, they could show an alleged violence that, in reality , did not exist.
If there is an exponent of fake news, it is the current president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.
A clear example was in one of his speeches, in which during an anti-immigration attack that labeled immigrants as criminals, he exemplified what he meant by “what had happened in Sweden”, when nothing had happened in that country.
Chance meant that a week later, Sweden suffered an attack, apparently of a Salafist character, which for many gave reason to Trump. However, at the time, the president even apologized to the Swedish government.
The media that propagate fake news, as well as those that consume it, attribute another argument: the mass media are controlled
You’ve certainly heard it before: newspapers, radio and television cannot be trusted, as they are all in the service of large corporations and the government (which are those who pay advertising and follow those who resort to this argument). Those who say this usually say that they know some or some supposedly impartial media that actually inform the truth.
However, when these people are asked why they trust these means, they only get pilgrim answers: because yes, because they are independent (without arguing much further).
What means should we trust?
Fake news is relatively easy to detect, as it is usually spread by few people. In return, real events receive more and better coverage.
The only recommendation is to be selective with the media you follow and contrast the news in other media.