Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Who wants to share government content? In recent European elections, not many people
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Nov. 18, 2016, 11:08 a.m.
LINK: www.newyorker.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   November 18, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Thursday night that he had convinced Ford to not close a factory in Kentucky. “I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky,” Trump tweeted. “I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!”

There was just one problem: The automaker wasn’t planning on closing the factory. (It was going to move production of the Lincoln MKC SUV to Mexico, but increase production of the Ford Escape, which is made in the same facility.)

Regardless of Ford’s plans, the incident is just another illustration of how social media has been utilized to spread false information.

It’s an issue even President Barack Obama has been thinking about. He addressed the issue in a press conference in Germany this week.

Obama also, according to a profile by New Yorker editor David Remnick, had “talked almost obsessively” about a recent BuzzFeed story about how teens in Macedonia were creating pro-Trump websites that peddled fake stories.

Facebook and sites like these have resulted in an environment where “everything is true and nothing is true,” Obama said:

“An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll. And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal—that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.”

That marked a decisive change from previous political eras, he maintained. “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us,” he said. “And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.”

Even members of Trump’s incoming administration have shared these stories.

For his part, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said hoaxes or fake news account for less than 1 percent of what people see in their News Feeds. Still, the issue is not going away, and it appears that journalists and news consumers will continue to find ways to address the spread of false narratives on platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 50,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Who wants to share government content? In recent European elections, not many people
Plus: How college students evaluate fake vs. real news, and an algorithm that doesn’t just identify fake news but explains why.
Newsonomics: It’s looking like Gannett will be acquired by GateHouse — creating a newspaper megachain like the U.S. has never seen
A combined GannHouse (Gatenett?) would own 1 out of every 6 daily newspapers in America. The goal? Buy two or three more years to figure out how to make money in digital.
Local news projects rush to fill The Vindicator’s void, with the McClatchy-Google network putting down roots
“We’re ultimately trying to do this as small and nimble as possible so that we can be seeing what’s working and throw out what’s not — and quickly being able to shift in a way that’s a little bit harder when you’re working with a 150-year-old newspaper.”