False reports deceived millions of social media users in 2016. Don’t be shocked—be vigilant
BY NOW, it’s clear that enterprising profiteers, right-wing extremists, and Russian propagandists used Facebook to circulate manipulative and untrue reports throughout 2016, misinforming millions of voters and, some say, tilting the election in Trump’s favor. Though CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially scoffed at his platform’s problem, the company—following Google’s lead— responded to public outrage by formally announcing it would work to suppress fake news.
Inherent in our anger about this deception is the idea that anyone’s opinion could be “corrected” if only he or she were spoon-fed the “right” stories. Yet the news has never been a collection of pure, prefab truths that impartial reporters happen to find lying around. Instead, all journalism is manufactured truth, to some degree. No matter the source, readers must ask why it was made and what demands it was created to meet. The right question isn’t “Is this news true?” but “Why was this presented as news?”