“Banksy’s identity revealed!”
“Facebook now requires a monthly user fee.”
“Bath salts create zombies.”
Chances are, you’ve probably seen these ‘news’ headlines all over social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These shocking revelations prompted millions of social media users to click on the links to find out more, and then they were sharing the links to warn friends and family.
However, these incredible and shocking ‘news’ articles were produced for that exact effect; rather than the production of real journalism. And it can cause problems for those who open links and share them.
Writers of ‘fake news’ usually write fake articles that people just can’t believe; but in our curious nature, we click to find out more. Unfortunately, especially because of the official sounding websites, people weren’t stopping to check whether the articles were based on facts or just the creation of pure fantasy.
In 2014, a man named Paul Horner managed to capture a huge digital audience by creating these ‘fake news’ articles. As a chief writer for National Report, he was making tens of thousands of US dollars per day by writing ridiculous articles. However, not everyone realised that his articles were completely fabricated, and with everyone else sharing the same stories, people genuinely thought they were real.
But surely it’s just a bit of entertainment?
Well that’s how it may have started off. The articles were so ridiculous that surely no one would believe them. Unfortunately, these articles went viral and were shared on genuine news platforms too. In one fake story, Horner wrote that “Obama uses own money to open Muslim museum amid government shutdown”. Fox news jumped straight in and reported it live on television before realising they had become victim to the dupe.
Horner realised that people were easily tricked into clicking onto his articles and thus started posting more controversial articles about the then presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In one post, Hillary Clinton was reported to have suffered from brain damage and had alcohol and drug addictions: all backed by so called ‘experts’! Another article Horner posted ‘revealed’ that Trump protesters had been paid to protest. The author said he only did it for fun and never thought people would believe him but now, there are great concerns that his work in jest may have had a huge political impact and may have cost Hillary Clinton the presidency.
Fake news has huge impacts…
Who knows if this was the deciding factor on the US presidential election, but one thing is for sure: ‘fake news’ has a huge impact that is to be reckoned with. In English law, slander and libel is taken seriously when one person’s reputation is harmed or ruined by another’s lies. Alex Younger, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 has spoken out about ‘fake news’, saying that it “destroys democracy”.
From the data perspective…
We are part of a nation that takes protection of personal information very seriously. We have various laws in place to protect information, and provisions to enforce such protection as well. When someone’s personal information is leaked, it can be a truly horrible experience with all sorts of implications. Data leaks are difficult to stop, as once the information is out there, there is no guarantee that it can be stopped. The problem now is that cyber criminals are using these wild stories to tempt people to open and share potentially harmful links – like links that can lead to viruses and hacks on computers.
Sharing it only makes the issue worse, so the rise of fake news can be extremely dangerous for online security. It could only take one employee on a lunch break opening up a dodgy link that could infect a professional server and result in a company being hacked.
Similarly, a smeared reputation from defamation can also be extremely hard to fix: like a suspected murderer who was cleared of charges but people still distrust. Along with their reputation, people can lose their jobs, relationships and friendships because of defamation. The psychological impact is huge as the victim will know that information being spread about them isn’t even true.
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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