During the final month of the recent election cycle, news-related drama was frequently seen across publications.
This is not atypical for an American election, especially during a presidential cycle without an incumbent candidate and with the two candidates that voters had to choose from.
However, for the first time, the mass media did not have total control over coverage of the election. Fake news stole some attention from mainstream media sources, which ultimately caused the spread of untruthful news.
A particularly memorable story regarded Hillary Clinton supposedly running an underground sex slave ring out of a metropolitian D.C. pizza shop. This outwardly false news grabbed the attention of a North Carolinian man who then took it upon himself to bring his gun to the pizza shop and open fire on customers.
Although there were no casualties in this specific incident, it was not isolated in its effect on the election. As news moves more online, fake news sites grow in popularity as they lure consumers with gripping headlines and advertisements on popular social media platforms, such as Facebook.
The future of media itself must be called into question, as the credibility of the news weakens with fake news. If consumers are attracted to headlines or stories with false or biased news, the ability for true news sources to continue their reporting becomes increasingly more difficult. Further, the ability for consumers to differentiate between real and fake news is more difficult as fake news becomes equally as accessible as real news through the internet.
Websites such as “CivicTribune,” “Enduring Vision” and “RealNewsRightNow” seem legitimate by name and website layout. Similarly, fantastical articles such as the one regarding Hillary Clinton’s underground sex ring, President Donald Trump immediately banning all Muslims or groups of men attacking innocent women because of their clothing seem reasonable enough to be real news.
The danger with fake news websites are not the stories themselves. The danger is that these websites prey on vulnerable readers who are unable to differentiate betewen fake and real news.
Moreover, whether or not the reported turnout numbers at President Trump’s inauguration were true, the fact that Kellyanne Conway noted on “Meet the Press” that the Trump administration differed from mainstream media and instead followed their own set of “alternative facts” demonstrates the current movement away from trustworthy facts.
In this time of fake news and alternative facts, the necessity to stay truthful and independant as a news source is more important than ever. If the media is unable to lose its primary function as a watchdog, there is essentially no external check to the government; a reality without confidence in facts is one to fear.