Post-Truth and Fake News

There has been a lot of media attention recently on the concept of fake news and the Oxford dictionary has even made ‘post-truth’ the international word of the year. So, what does all this mean?


Let’s start with ‘post-truth’. According to the Oxford dictionary ‘post-truth’ is an adjective, “defined as relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

The usage of ‘post-truth’ has spiked by 2000% this year from world events such as, the USA election and the UK’s vote to leave the EU. There is a lot of criticism that the politicians and their PR machines made pledges based on appealing to voter’s emotions and that expert opinion was ignored.

An example of this is when a London bus appeared during the Brexit campaign claiming that £350 million sent to the EU would be put back into the British National Health Service (NHS). Many voters felt this was a cause they wanted to get behind. After the vote, the government made it clear that no extra funding that would be put into the NHS, making this claim a post-truth.


Picture taken from London Metro and you can view the full article here.

Fake News

Now let’s look at fake news. Fake news is exactly that. The news being shown is not genuine. The question is why write a fake article and then promote it? The answer is that this is a lucrative business. Every time a person clicks on the article the people behind the fake news make money from the advertising also displayed on the page. However, it is not just people trying to make money that create fake news, individuals can create a fake news phenomenon too.

The New York Times recently did a case study on how misinformed social media posts can turn into viral fake news. A man named Eric Tucker from Austin, Texas saw a line buses which he thought was unusual. He then saw that protests against Donald Trump were happening in the city and put two and two together.

He then posted a tweet stating “Anti-trump protestors in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the buses they came in. #fakeprotests #trump2016 #austin”.

The buses were in fact for a software conference attracting 13,000 people. When Eric Tucker was questioned on this he said that he did a search to see if there was an event in town that the buses could have been used for, but found nothing.

His post was shared 16,000 times on Twitter and 350,000 on Facebook. The software company who were responsible for the buses released a statement saying the buses were being used for their conference, but this had little effect. Eric Tucker’s tweet continued to generate thousands of shares on various sites even though the facts were wrong.

If you would like to read the full story, please click this link.

What you can do to protect yourself from fake news?

More than ever people are relying on social media as a source for current news. The fact is you cannot always believe what people say and what you read. The library’s top tip to protect yourself from being taken in by fake news is to fact check before you like or share.

1, Be smart, if you have never heard of the site before go to a reputable newspaper site and see if they are running the same story.

2, You have to be critical, check the facts and use your judgment to decide whether the information presented to you is from a good source. Who is the author? Where did they get there information from?

3, The more sensational the story the more you need to fact check!

This entry was posted in Media and Information Literacy, Source criticism. Bookmark the permalink.

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