• David Remington

How effective is "fake news"?

We all know who made ‘fake news’ a thing in the media. Even when it wasn’t fake (go figure). But the concept of fake news actually started in the mid 2016s, when journalists began to spot a seemingly endless stream of made-up news stories, originating from a small Eastern European town.

Of course, the majority of accusations of fake news over the past couple of years have come straight from the mouth (or fingertips, via Twitter) of the President of the United States. Don’t like what’s been written? Fake News. Don’t agree with what’s being said? Fake News? Run out of anything else to say but still need to be the focal point of everyone? Fake News.

The problem with such loose accusations of fake news is this:

1) Being accused of reporting ‘fake news’ can kill a business, not just individuals

2) If you accuse people of ‘fake news’ too much, it’ll seem empty to many readers and listeners - like the boy who cried wolf

When a customer hears fake news about a company, the effects can be huge. We make purchasing decisions based on emotions, and justified with logic. Even if the seed has been planted about wrongdoing with fake news, and even if we suspect that this isn’t true, we are often still affected by this news, and nervous to proceed with the company.

Being proud of where we work for, and who we represent, is important. Sure, it looks great on Linkedin when we work for a top company, but the retention rate at any company is going to be far lower if employees are nervous about these ‘fake news’ accusations, leaving them feeling disaffected, and no longer loyal to, or proud of, the company.

Take vaccinations. In 1998, disgraced ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield published some research, outlining how vaccines can cause autism. This fake news travelled far and wide, even though there was not one iota of truth in it. Wakefield’s licence to practice was revoked, and he was erased from the medical register in 2010, after the research was proved to be dishonest and untrue.

But did that stop people believing what he had initially written? No. In fact, there are a number of parents who still put other children and adults at risk by not vaccinating their children due to fears of them becoming autistic, years after Wakefield’s research was proved to be ‘fake news’.

The indirect impact on events, thanks to fake news, is also prevalent. That £350m a week that was going to the NHS hasn’t materialised (and it was denied the day that Brexit prevailed…. even after it was announced on the side of buses!). The same can be said for the 2016 US Presidential Election. The amount of stories being spread from one side of the campaign, to discredit the other candidate, resulted in a shock result, followed by the realisation that a lot of what was being spoken about wasn’t even true. As well as this, with these huge changes in world politics, importation and exportation of products has changed, and trade deals with countries are constantly being renegotiated. With import prices going up, profit margins come down, and in turn, businesses suffer. The people working for these businesses also suffer (think Nissan), when huge companies such as the car giant decide to move their production lines elsewhere.

But one of the main issues, and we move back to the boy who cried wolf here, is that with such an abundance of fake news, people don’t know what to trust anymore. Soon (if not already) there will be AIs around the globe writing fake news, and producing fake videos. It will soon be even harder to determine what is real and what is fake. Research has also been done to prove that fake news spreads faster than real news.

If the old adage of ‘any publicity is good publicity’ is true, then perhaps businesses might start producing their own fake news, if only to succeed.

What are your thoughts on fake news? Let me know in the comments below.

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