Valuing vs. Controlling Our Free Speech

The definition of the phrase Freedom of Speech in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the legal right to express one’s opinions freely”(click here). As the rising generation, many Millennials value their right to free speech highly, as they should. Our opinions are used everyday to mold and shape our world around us. It’s what creates individuality, motivates change in society, and influences those who stand against beliefs. Naturally, we tend to feel entitled by our opinions. It’s the human thing to do. But feeling empowered by your right to speech is good in small doses as too much feeling of entitlement can lead to hate speech. There is so clear line between free and hate speech making it easy to cross. This is the main issue I believe that society suffers from today. People believe that because their own opinion is protected by an amendment that they can say anything and be covered like verbal insurance. The amendment should have some limit to the violent hate speeches but it would call for censorship.

A good example I can personally think of is walking on campus and seeing the religious men that hand out the new testament books and preach the word. About a month or two ago, there was a protest that resembled a riot on “Ped-walkway” in between Hodges Library and the Humanities and Social Sciences building on the University of Tennessee campus. A preacher had come to share the word and a massive group of students had gathered around him yelling at him. Although I could barely hear the man over the maybe 50 to 100 students that were protesting, I was able to overhear fellow students chanting back that the man was spreading “hate speeches” against other religions. Although the man was expressing his freedom of speech as he preached, he spoke against many other religions on campus and how we would “burn in hell” for our beliefs. Although he was expressing his right to free speech, his words became hate as he told others that their religions and beliefs were sins or were lies. Many of the students became very offended as they too believe that they have a right to their opinions and beliefs.

Campuses have a lot of growing diversity with ethnicity and religion. Many other universities face similar problems as UT with religion and free speech. In an article called “Free Speech or Hate Speech? Campus Debates Over Victimhood Puts Universities in a Bind”(click here), author Abigail Hauslohner and Susan Svrluga write about incidents of hate speech protected by the first amendment on campuses. They begin by writing about posters that were placed across San Francisco State University featuring the face of a Muslim professor, Rabab Abdulhadi, and her students. The posters also read the words: “TERRORIST SUPPORTERS”. Now even though the posters were clearly directed towards Abdulhadi, the university administrators said that the creators of the posters were entitled by the first amendment. Hauslohner and Svrluga also write of a case at the University of Florida in which hundreds of students protested against a white nationalist in order to make him end his speech and leave early. They believe that the students want a campus in which intolerant and offensive ideas are not accepted and since the growth of diversity in campuses, students have become more willing to protest against the issues. “The notion that hate speech should be suppressed is increasingly prevalent. Only about a third of students in the survey said hate speech should be protected by the First Amendment. Almost half say it should not protect hate speech at all.” Hauslohner and Svrluga write.

Although it would be great to be able to live in a world without issues like hate speech, the only way to fully rid the country of the issue would be censorship. Censorship would go against the first amendment that we value so much as it would control what we can say. It would put limits on the word “FREE”. Free isn’t free under terms and conditions though. And even with censorship in place, the protests against it would rise whether its citizens who used hate speech or protested against it. It would limit all of us in some way in expressing ourselves. At this point, it would be choosing the lesser greater evil. Many cases such as the line between free and hate speech tend to be ignored since solving the issue would cause more issues than letting it be. The only thing that we can do at this point would be to stand against hate speech on our own and spread awareness of the issue. Like many issues facing our society today, educating ourselves is the first line of defense against anything along with gathering with others for support.

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“Extra, Extra, Read All About It!”: A Look into the “Breaking News” Culture

ronburgundy

Image by YouTube.com

Turn on the TV, or key up your smartphone, and there it is: Breaking News in big, bold letters on the screen. Without so much as checking the source, you quickly begin to absorb the story, sorting through the sudden barrage of information, when there it is again: Breaking News! The incessant creation of “news” has become a normal, if not routine aspect of our daily lives. But, are there really news-worthy stories “breaking” at such a lightening clip, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? When evaluating the news industry at its current state, one can clearly see that the so-called “thirst to be first” has ultimately undermined traditional, fact-based journalism. The proliferation of technology like cable television that enabled a 24/7 news feed to take off has gradually shifted to social media “news” sources such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the current digital age. And as technology has enabled a news-on-demand pipeline, the demand for apparent content – the “breaking news” story – has exploded, causing a shift away from time-consuming, traditional, investigative news reporting, and a move toward “pop-up” news that is often unsupported in fact, and routinely embellished with opinion.

 

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Image by hanfordsentinel.com

                           

In their analysis of the breaking news culture, Stephen Cushion and Justin Lewis make the following observation: “…the emphasis on being first and the subsequent proliferation of breaking news appears to have created an assembly line of breaking news production that has little to do with being informative or communicating news well.” Simply put, they conclude that the news industry’s obsession with “being first” has, in short, sacrificed the integrity of journalism itself. Think back to the last time you read an article in a print newspaper or journal. Chances are, you’re probably struggling to remember when that might have been. However, suppose you were to pick a copy of the Wallstreet Journal, the New York Times, or say, the Knoxville New Sentinel, or even the Daily Beacon? Now, you would be fairly confident in the accuracy of this particular news source, because you know that a trained, dedicated group of writers and editors are responsible for the content of this paper. Now, ponder how many times a day you read a “news” story on Facebook, Twitter, or even Snapchat. Do you ever ask yourself who the author is, what their credentials are, whether or not the story was edited and reviewed, or if the content is even factually-based? In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, statistics reveal (and not very surprisingly) that 69% of the public uses some type of social media. In addition to this, 86% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 are actively involved with social media, and Facebook tops off as being ranked the most-widely used social media platform. A similar study also indicates that roughly one quarter (26%) of all U.S. adults get news from two or more social media sites, with Facebook claiming the largest share in social media news consumers. Now, where do we fit into this picture? Approximately 78% of those between the ages of 18 and 49 access the news via social media, and those with a college-level education are only 9% more likely to do so than those without a college-level education (69% vs. 60%) (Pew Research Center). So, in other words, younger generations are more likely to access the news through social media sources such as Facebook and Twitter, and college students and graduates are still trusting of these sources. Seems contradictory, don’t you think?

 

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   Image by gannett.com

                      

At this point, you may be wondering why you should be concerned about the “breaking news” culture. Let’s bring it back to Rocky Top by opening up an issue that’s been pretty touchy here as of late: Tennessee football, or, more specifically, our new football coach. Before Jeremy Pruitt was announced the new head coach of the Volunteers on December 7th, dozens of names were being tossed in the air. Several sources claimed that a new coach had already been hired prior to December 7th, and to put things simply, there was a lot of confusion in Big Orange country. Locals newspapers and stations were completely wrapped up in tracking the university’s hiring process. However, (and as many of you all may already know), social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram only further induced confusion amongst students and fans.

 

dog

Image by allfortennessee.com

 

The bottom line here is that we, Volnation, are subjected to the slippery slope of “breaking news” on a much greater scale than we realize. The breaking news culture which we are a part is something that we must be wary of. When you log into your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account, carefully scroll through your news feed. Analyze what is “trending”, and before clicking on the most popular article, determine who the author is, and what their credentials are. Always validate the facts, and check other sources to confirm that this “breaking news story” is, in fact, carefully-constructed, credible breaking news. It is our jobs as Tennessee Volunteers to uphold the spirit of excellence, and we can do that by promoting the creation and allocation of genuine, quality news.

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Image by flickr.com

 

Works Cited:

Bialik, Kristen, and Katerina Eva Matsa. “Key Trends in Social and Digital News Media.” Pew Research Center, 4 Oct. 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/10/04/key-trends-in-social-and-digital-news-media/.

 

Cushion, Stephen & Lewis, Justin.  “The Thirst to Be First.” [Journalism Practice, Volume 3, Issue 3, 26 June 2009, pp 304-308.] (Taylor and Francis Online, DOI:10.1080/17512780902798737)

 

“Social Media Fact Sheet” Pew Research Center, 12 Jan. 2017, http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/.

 

Your College Is A Living Expression, So Why Not Be Part of It

The Constitution of United States of America specifically explains the rights of all Americans, including Freedom of Speech. School is where a student has their first experience with freedom of speech. It is a place where an individual can protest because their voice is very important for today’s society. No matter how difficult it would be, you need to stop fearing of what others think and start with what you think. Over the years ideas have changed and the point of views of people too have developed with them. Schools have become very diverse and with this many different opinions and views towards things have changed. On a campus there are so many things that are occurring, where every student can relate to either one way or another. Some protest that are very common at every campus are school based, racism, and the opinion on the LGBT community.

According to New York Times, at Berkeley college there has been many disciplinary actions that have been taken place. Students on campus were forced to do certain things that they not support at all. They state, “Movement male students wore coats and ties to campus, dormitories in which both men and women lived were unheard of, and female students were subject to an 11 P.M. curfew” (nytimes). This is very different from how things are now at college. Nowadays, there’s a choice where females and males live in the same dorms, uniforms may be a thing in some high schools, but certainly not in college no more, and lastly there is not a real curfew college student have to go by. These regulations made students start a movement at Berkeley in the 1960’s. This movement soon spread across all the campuses in America. It started with just one student named, Mr. Weinberg, and then soon hundreds joined and then thousands.

Furthermore, racism has been around for a long time and it still exists even though its not as big of a problem it uses to be.  At Arizona State University a fraternity threw a party for Martin Luther King Jr., in which students that were non-black were mocking blacks. They even posted this all over there social media which caused other students to react in disapproval. The same fraternity have also been part of beating up a black student. At this University there is much diversity and through fraternities’ racist things continue to occur. Ja’han Jones wrote a letter to the fraternity saying, “’I am concerned that your fraternal structure is transforming into an echo chamber for racism”’(Santos).Image result for racism protest utk Many students here either ignore the issue or others like Ja’han Jones speak up to it. It is very important to speak up to what is right because if you do not then racists things like this will continue to happen. Also, there does happen to be diversity at The University of Tennessee, but racism occurs at every campus. Some months ago a protest occurred to support the Confederate memorial in Fort Sanders. They have not succeeded much with their protest but there is more work to be done. In order to be successful at something, you need to keep trying because at the end all the hard work will pay off. Herron said, “’We felt like we needed to stand with people calling out racism. It’s something we have to do, but there’s so much work left and for members of indivisible East Tennessee, that’s daily work” (Lakin, Ohm, and Crocker). At this protest it was both violent and peaceful event that was taken place. This protest was huge, and it is something that has been around for many years, don’t you believe its time to end racism.

People in the LGBT community are all having a hard time at campuses. Some are standing up and fighting for their rights on campuses. There have been so many outbreaks of protest and battles of the acceptance of the members in the LGBT community. In Christian schools they believe that being gay goes against to what their god has to say. As soon as the gay rights movement passed many started coming out. This soon caused students to ask for thingsImage result for lgbt protest that help support them and give themselves and identity at their school. Eckholm states, “demanding a right to proclaim their identities and form campus clubs, and rejecting suggestions to seek help in suppressing homosexual desires” (Eckholm). These students just want a name and identity for themselves in campuses, so they can fit it and do not have to feel uncomfortable anymore.

 

It is very difficult to protest and stand up for what you believe is right because everyone does not have the same opinions as you. Your opinion is important, and it takes one person to start an chain to make an difference. If you do not say something now, how would you ever have a voice for your self in today’s society. More of which the topics are protested on is current events and its what students in schools relate more with. A student’s school is where they are able to express themselves in which ever way. No one can take their rights of speech away from them because it is their way to be part of the school. Although there are so many topics going around in the heads of college students, some topics that are usually protested on campuses are school based, racism, and about the LGBT community.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited Page

 

 

“Student Movement of ’64 Remembered at Berkeley.” New York Times, 06 October 1984, http://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/07/us/student-movement-of-64-remembered-at-berkeley.html

 

Santos, Fernanda. “Arizona Fraternity Party Stirs Concerns of Racism.” New York Times, 22 January 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/us/arizona-fraternity-party-stirs-concerns-of-racism.html

 

Lakin, Matt. Ohm, Racheal. Crocker, Brittany. “No violence during Confederate monument rally in Fort Sanders.” Knoxville News Sentinel, 26 August 2017, http://www.knoxnews.com /story/news/2017/08/26/live-updates-white-supremacist-rally-confederate-fort-sanders-monument-knoxville/602946001/

 

Eckholm, Erik. “Gay Rights at Christian Colleges Face Suppression.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Apr. 2011, www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/us/19gays.html.

Fighting Fake News and the Protecting Freedom of Speech

After the 2016 election, fake news has taken the national spot light as politicians and journalists alike debate over what preventative steps should be taken. A year later, these suggested policies are beginning to realize, but consensus is still out on a precise definition of fake news. In any case where speech is limited, a careful analysis is necessary to prevent unnecessary, and potentially dangerous, censorship. As the world moves forward in its fight against fake news and we, students at the University of Tennessee, beginning to make our impact on it, it is vital that these changes concurrently push society forward and not diminish the freedom of speech. An alternative and under explored avenue in fighting fake news is to fight fake news through the court of law by legally defining it as falsehoods published for economic gain.
Fake News Policy Put Into Practice
A commonly held belief is that fake news can be fought through increased awareness of the issue and a consummation of more diverse, higher quality media. One op-ed discusses how “fake news and [social media] echo chambers reflect the magnetic pull that viral content has on our society” and argues that “[c]ritcial thinking has become the front line of defense” (Gavin, 2). Indeed, fake news as it is recognized today often preys on reader’s own confirmation biases. Now, colleges around the country are taking action in this vein. The University of Washington and University of Michigan are offering courses on identifying and avoiding fake news (Wilson). Other universities across the country are updating their journalism programs with stronger emphasis on journalism ethics and technological literacy (Smith). This common sense style approach is appealing to many, but in practice, its effect on the immediate future is unlikely to impact today’s fight against fake news due to the limited scope of these ununited movements.
Another popular suggestion is the implementation of technology to analyze and filter content. Google is working on updating its search engine “to prevent it from directing people to bogus, defamatory claims” (Fisher, 4). The “machine-learning algorithms that would warn users about dangerous or untrustworthy content” proposed within this New York Times op-ed are now being turned into reality in the form of artificial intelligence (Dooling, 2). ByteDance Technology, operated by one of China’s largest news media platforms, has developed two AI algorithms, one that creates fake news and one that is learning to identify the fake from the true using the earlier’s content (Jing). However, the future of fake news is likely to include fake videos. Indeed, various AI’s are increasingly skilled in photo, video, and audio manipulation (Lewis). In the near future, fake news will be backed by footage indiscernible from legitimate video. While technology vital to identifying and studying fake news, it cannot eliminate it as the technology to create it continues to advance.
Fake Obama Created Using AI Video Tool
Overwhelmingly, is the call for Facebook, Google, and other media companies to utilize these algorithms alongside human editors to filter and block content on their sites. Whether these companies themselves are responsible for spread of fake news, and thus responsible for removing it or that the hiring of third parties to both organize the filtration and removal of content is acceptable continues to be debated (Mossberg). However, given that these companies are all for profit, ethical concern arise over endorsing their censorship powers.
More disturbingly, is the rise of legislation designed to criminalize fake news. On October 1st, 2017, Germany’s “Act to Improve the Enforcement of Rights on Social Networks” will begin to be enforced (Gesley). It mandates that social media platforms remove “obviously illegal” content within twenty four hours, and more ambiguously illegal content within seven days following an investigation at the threat of million dollar fines (Gelsey). Tucked within legislation regarding increased transparency in political advertisements, Ireland recently made the use of automated software to publish anything regarding politics matters, true or false, a criminal offense (“Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017” 5-6).
Eroding the Freedom of Speech
Simply said, entrusting the powers of censorship into the hands of companies is fundamentally opposed to the promotion of the freedom of speech. Facebook and Google, among other media companies, are for profit, and this end goal is incompatible with a unbiased and honest selection of third parties to filter and block media or enacting genuine corporate practice against fake news. The vagueness of fake news definition only amplifies
When these practices are combined with government censorship, the danger to civil liberties grows. Maryant Pérez, a member of the European Digital Rights, discusses how “[t]hese companies are, quite rationally, driven by the motivation to avoid liability, using the cheapest options available, and to exploit the political legitimation of their restrictive measures for profit. This can only lead to privatized, unpredictable online censorship” (Pérez). Legislation against fake news is a treacherous path. The Irish law demonstrates how quickly saying anything, whether it falsehoods, sincerely held beliefs, or factual information, can quickly become illegal if it is said through the wrong method.
Even in the United States, laws similar to these are being proposed. Earlier this year, California drafted legislation that would prohibit “a person from knowingly and willingly making public or circulating on the Internet, or causing to be made published or circulated in any writing posted on the Internet, a false or deceptive statement designed to influence the vote on an issue submitted to voters or a candidate for public office” (“The California Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act 2017”). While seemingly just, it would not only would it criminalize humor and satire; it would also criminalizes reporting of any kind on such content (Maass). Furthermore, if one pauses to consider the potential effects on political races, the idea that political races would divulge into suing and counter suing over “hyperbole, exaggeration, poetic license, or common error” attempting to prove the other candidate “knowingly and willingly” made a “false or deceptive” statements is not far fetched (Maass) (“The California Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act 2017”).
This portion of the bill would be removed most likely due to concerns that it was unconstitutional and would not hold up in court (Maass). In fact, the Supreme Court previously rejected a bill designed to protect veterans because it could not “endure governmental authority to compile a list of subjects about which false statements as punishable”(qtd. in Gibson and Reid 4).
An Alternate Solution
This is the very beauty of our democratic system. It checks and balances itself in order to preserve the rights and values we hold dear. The government has already provided a pathway to fight fake news without jeopardizing the freedom of speech because this method targets what is genuinely wrong about fake news, the deception of the American people for profit.

usThe United States Supreme Court (Raga)

That is why I am proposing that we advocate for fake news to be given a legal definition of falsehoods published for economic gain. Through this, fake news is targeted through the country’s already existing anti fraud laws. If someone sincerely believes something false, or simply wants to open discussion around it, they will not be punished for exercising their civil rights. However, if a individual or group seeks to spread lies in order to make money, they can be brought to justice.
This method has been employed as early as 2012, when the Federal Trade Commission brought lawsuits against fake news advertisers featuring diet pills (Gibson and Reid 12). In 2014, the FTC successfully sued for the shutting down of fake sites selling diet pills with fake claims (Gibson and Reid 3). By adopting a clear legal definition for fake news, it opens up other organizations for citizens to civil right groups to fight against fake news and for the freedom of speech. This proposed definition allows for both the argument that an article is published for financial gain or that is it genuine, protected speech.
While the threat to the freedom of speech by the economic sector poses a subtle issue that will only grow with time, the use of legislation in attempt to prohibit fake news enables states to erode the freedoms of speech. As tempting as it is to cave to our desire to immediately and strongly protect individuals from deception, especially in regards to political processes, it is important to be cognizant of the dangers of taking away the rights that enable Americans to have unrestricted access to information, including what is logical, rational, and true. It is in this value of the freedom of speech and democracy that we must reject these methods and explore the potential of fighting fake news under anti fraud laws.

Works Cited

Dooling, Annemarie. “Algorithms Could Help Social Media Users Spot Fake News.” The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/11/22/how-to-stop-the-spread-of-fake-news/algorithms-could-help-social-media-users-spot-fake-news

“The California Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act 2017.” California Legislative Information, Oct. 10 2017, https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVersionsCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1104&cversion=20170AB110499IN

“Fake Obama Created Using AI Video Tool.” Youtube, Jul. 19 2017, https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=AmUC4m6w1wo

Fisher, Anthony. “Fake News is Bad. Attempts to Ban it are Worse” Vox, 5 Jul. 2017, https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/7/5/15906382/fake-news-free-speech-facebook-google

Gelsey, Jenny. “Germany: Social Media Platforms to Be Held Accountable for Hosted Content Under ‘Facebook Act.’” Library of Congress, Jul. 11 2017, http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/germany-social-media-platforms-to-be-held-accountable-for-hosted-content-under-facebook-act/

Gibson, Sara and David Reid. “Fake News and the First Amendment: A Developing Standard.” Insights to a Changing World Journal, vol. 2014, no. 3, 2014, pp. 3-15.

Glavin, Nicholas. “Facebook, Twitter Users Must Be More Critical of Content.” The New York Times, Nov. 22 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/11/22/how-to-stop-the-spread-of-fake-news/facebook-twitter-users-must-be-more-critical-of-content

Jing, Meng. “Fighting Fake News the Chinese Way: A Peek Inside China’s Biggest News Aggregator.” South China Morning Post, Dec. 1 2017, http://www.scmp.com/tech/apps-gaming/article/2122516/fighting-fake-news-chinese-way-peek-inside-chinas-biggest-news

Lewis, Helen. “Fake News: A World of Pixel-Perfect Forgeries is Coming.” Financial Times, Dec 9 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/1490b9e6-dc09-11e7-a039-c64b1c 09b482

Maass, Dave. “California Bill To Ban “Fake News” Would Be Disastrous for Political Speech.” Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mar. 27 2017, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/03/california-bill-ban-fake-news-would-be-disastrous-political-speech

Mossberg, Walt. “Facebook Can and Should Wipe Out Fake News.” The Verge, Nov. 30 2016, https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/30/13787750/walt-mossberg-facebook-fake-news

Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017.” Oireachtas, Nov. 6 2017, http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/bills/2017/15017/b15017d.pdf

Pérez, Maryant. “Germany: Will 30 June be the Day Populism Killed Free Speech?” European Digital Rights, Jun. 29 2017, https://edri.org/germany-will-30-june-be-the-day- populism-killed-free-speech/

Smith, Casey. “How Universities are Tackling the Fake News Problem.” USA Today College, Jan. 23 2017, http://college.usatoday.com/2017/01/23/how-universities-are-working-to-educate-students-and-the-public-about-fake-news/

Wilson, Bláithín. “How Universities are Fighting Fake News.” University Times, Nov. 27 2017, http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/11/how-universities-are-fighting-fake-news/

Widespread Adaptation to The Presence of Fake News is Essential

As technology continues to advance, we become more reliant on what it has to offer because it becomes more convenient for us, and it allows us to better grow and develop as a species. It is within human nature to be inquisitive and make beneficial change, but adaptation is necessary when change is made. Social media has become the new hot spot for news sharing, but fake news has plagued the internet. What’s fake news? It can be defined as any problematic content that is considered untrue. It had such a significant impact on the 2016 election as it was proven to sway voter’s opinions (Anderson).

 

Fake news has gained so much prevalence in today’s society to the point where we have almost become numb to hearing about it. We need to recognize that fake news is indeed a problem in the world that requires resolution. It has been the root of numerous issues such as the “pizzagate” scandal, an incident in which fake news articles about Hillary Clinton operating a sex trafficking coalition in the basement of a pizza shop spurred a man to fire off rounds from an assault rifle inside the innocent pizza shop. If it is so troublesome then how should we fix it? There has been great controversy on how this problem should be resolved as some people believe that social media corporations should take on the responsibility of combating it, while others believe that it is in the general public’s hands to figure out how to deal with fake news properly. We need to take initiative in recognizing fake news, and adapt to its currently inevitable existence as it is going to be a long time until fake news is eliminated entirely, social media will continue to grow as a news platform, and we, the readers of fake news, tend to cause its problems.

 

The removal of fake news is a difficult process because free speech laws exist in the US and the magnitude of fake news that runs rampant throughout the internet is immense. Large social media corporations, such as Facebook, have taken some efforts in combatting fake news, but those efforts have been fruitless thus far as they are petty attempts made in order to drive the media off their back (Crook). Facebook continually refuses to admit that it is a media company, meanwhile the interface of its platform says otherwise. “After initially resisting criticism, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg eventually acknowledged Facebook’s responsibility to curb misinformation, but said he was wary of Facebook becoming what he calls the ‘arbiters of truth’” (Seetheraman). It will be some time until Facebook feels enough pressure to fully dedicate themselves to resolving fake news as no one has found the end-all-be-all solution. We cannot help the fact that Facebook is beating around the bush and shirking its responsibilities for the harmful content being created through their social media platform, but we can take the initiative in learning how to cope with what we are dealt with.

 

Growing up in the early 2000’s, I would always catch my father, a man born in 1960, reading the morning paper or a magazine such as the New York Times. Now, he uses Twitter and other news-based apps through his iPhone to inform himself much more than he does print articles. He recently made this transition, and it reflects the fact that not just millennials, but people of all ages take advantage of the convenience and ease of using social media as their source for information. “In May last year the researcher reported that 62 per cent of American adults were obtaining news from tech platforms, saying 18 per cent were doing so often. Now, in its latest survey, it says two-thirds (67%) of U.S. adults are reporting getting at least some of their news on social media. While a fifth (20%) report doing so ‘often’” (Lomas). It is difficult for us to not use social media as it has become so commonplace.

 

The more popular social media becomes, the more incentivized people with malicious intentions are to spread fake news. Fake news is spread by people that are trying to gain leverage over mass amounts of people because of personal, economic, or ideological gain (Jarvis). These bad actors recognize the millions of people that get their news online and they take advantage of it. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the rise of social media as a news platform is a beneficial advancement in our society, but we need to recognize and learn how to adapt to this change.

 

What influenced Edgar Welch to fire three shots from an AR-15 rifle inside the Comet pizza shop in Washington D.C? If you guessed a fake news story that flooded social media, you would be correct. The fact that this story was crafted so perfectly that it spurred this type of action is a frightening thought. The level of influence that fake news has on people’s thoughts and opinions is hard to measure, but past events suggest that it is something to worry about (Titcomb). We need to recognize that we are the targets of fake news and it is generated for the purpose of altering our opinions. If we remain so naive to the serious dangers precedent of fake news, we will continue to fall victim to its malicious intentions. Realizing that the internet and social media is not always the most reliable source is the first step that we can take to combating fake news.

Fake News Picture

How can we avoid falling into the clutches of fake news?

  1. Taking consideration from multiple sources on a topic is a sure way to avoid being influenced by an extreme case of fake news. This allows us to gain exposition from multiple different perspectives on a topic.
  2. Using fact checking sites such as snopes.com and factcheck.org is an effective way to find unbiased information.
  3. If you are a social media user, you can do some research on what kind of accounts are known to be fake news spreaders and block them.

 

We as a society need to take initiative in educating ourselves on identifying fake news, and we should hold ourselves accountable by not letting it influence our opinions. The problem of fake news will be eliminated if its intended targets become immune to its effects, so we should all strive to self-vaccinate ourselves from this informational plague.

 

Works Cited

Anderson, Monica. “Social Media Causes Some Users to Rethink Their Views on an Issue.” Pew Research Center, 7 Nov. 2016, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/07/social-media-causes-some-users-to-rethink-their-views-on-an-issue/.

Carson, James Titcomb; James. “Fake News: What Exactly Is It – and Can It Really Swing an Election?” The Telegraph, 14 Nov. 2017, www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/fake-news-exactly-has-really-had-influence/.

Crook, Jordan. “Facebook Will Never Take Responsibility for Fake News.” TechCrunch, 19 Mar. 2017, techcrunch.com/2017/03/19/facebook-will-never-take-responsibility-for-fake-news/.

Jarvis, Jeff. “Our Problem Isn’t ‘Fake News.’ Our Problems Are Trust and Manipulation.” Medium, 12 June 2017, medium.com/whither-news/our-problem-isnt-fake-news-our-problems-are-trust-and-manipulation-5bfbcd716440.

Lomas, Natasha. “Even More US Adults Now Getting News from Social Media, Says Pew.” TechCrunch, 9 Sept. 2017, techcrunch.com/2017/09/09/even-more-us-adults-now-getting-news-from-social-media-says-pew/.

Seetharaman, Deepa. “Facebook Drowns Out Fake News with More Information.” The Wall Street Journal, 3 Aug. 2017, www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-drowns-out-fake-news-with-more-information-1501754403?mg=prod%2Faccounts-wsj.

 

The Real Fake News: The “Problem of Fake News”

As the days pass the term fake news becomes more and more apart of our daily vocabulary. Though it is becoming more commonplace I argue that fake news is not nearly the problem that everyone makes it out to be. I do agree that fake news is not good, but people blow it out to be a huge problem that is going to tear us all apart. The real problem is us, the consumer and our increased apathy that has caused fake news to be so hard-hitting and blow up as it has in the past year and a half.

Fake news has been around since the invention of the printing press, but the internet and near instant communication methods have made fake news blow up. This instant connection we have to the rest of the world and a general increase in overall apathy of people these days have been the biggest influences on the rapid increase in fake news in general. The people of twenty seventeen are not like the people of past years. Whether it is good or no if up to you, but the people of today either don’t have the time to look every detail of an article up to verify the validity or they just don’t care (Columbia Journalism review).

Due to much of the population not fact checking the articles they read many people are under the impression that whatever they just read happened or is happening. This then escalates the reaction and makes for a pandemonium because these articles are usually outrageous, and arguably warrant a reaction of retaliation that we have seen. Though there is this crazy response the media constantly promotes this hot take that due to there being such a reaction to fake news that it is tearing the world apart one article at a time. This is fake news in and of itself because it is promoting a false scenario (Burkhardt).

fake news meme 2

McGeorge, Bryce C. “Fake news Matrix meme.” Imgflip, 11 Dec. 2017, imgflip.com/memegenerator.

As far as how to prevent and get rid of fake news there is no solution. Fake news can never be eradicated because it is valid. At least in the US any fake news is protected by the first amendment, and if it is not hurting anyone you cannot keep fake news from existing. People can try to deter fake news, but it will only come back even stronger than before.

The only solution to fake news is to let it be. If you are so concerned with dealing with fake news and it being such a problem to you then stick you’re your one news source you trust, and do not deviate from it. It is as simple as that, but by only sticking to one news source you are limiting your spectrum of view and thus hurting only yourself. If anyone is to stay updated on the current happenings of our world they must stay connected to multiple sources and constantly checking to be sure they are getting the most factual of news stories.

We must put away this idea that since fake news is bad that we cannot use it. We are fully capable of using fake news to educate on how to spot other fake news, so the reader does not have to waste their time with trying to figure out whether a piece of news is factual or not. We can also use fake news to potentially predict what may happen because it is just a theory, but for the most part fake news is never completely fake. There is almost always a sliver of truth to fake news, and by analyzing fake news we can possibly see what could happen and thus help prepare ourselves or potentially catch something and prevent it from happening before it can fully develop (Rosenblum).

All in all, we as people and consumers need to cease the thought that companies need to be filtering the content we choose to read. It is our job to check what we read, and conclude whether we believe it to be true or not based on our own observations. We must stop relying on other people to do our job for us because we just do not want to do it or because it is too time consuming. By taking a stand and doing it ourselves we can lessen the effect that fake news has on us all, and thus potentially discourage the people whom are only creating fake news to mislead other people. This would bring fake news down to news articles that are radically aligned to the left or to the right, and with that we would be able to easily dismiss said articles and that would leave only factual articles.

fake news meme

McGeorge, Bryce C. “Fake News Chappelle Meme.” Imgflip, 11 Dec. 2017, imgflip.com/memegenerator.

Users Can Stop Fake News

 

Similar to the rock we have here at the University of Tennessee, my high school also had a rock that people often used to celebrate birthdays and other events. The rock at my high school was always a symbol of our school and a place to have fun with birthday wishes and event details, until my junior year when the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election was at its peak. Someone decided to paint the rock with the words, “Build the Wall,” which caused quite a bit of upset throughout the school. So much so that the next day the message about building the wall had been painted over and replaced with “Black Lives Matter.” For a few days the rock was painted over and over again with racist comments and controversial messages. When the administration finally intervened the only direction given was to stop painting the rock, there was no discussion about civility or how to voice an opinion in a respectful and meaningful way. What was interesting about the rock was that while only a select few were actually painting the rock, hundreds of people passing by were getting a skewed image of the school and making assumptions about the students. The local news started to report about our school and discussed how parents felt uncertain about how the rhetoric from a few students would impact their children’s time at the school (Russell). It is easy to see how the words from only a few students affected the reputation of the school and students. In the same way, fake news can similarly altar how people perceive other groups of people thus creating a divide in the United States. Here at the University of Tennessee, students must be conscious about how our school is being represented online and on campus. It is the responsibility of people who use social media and people creating content to stop fake news and ensure that the content being shared is accurate and objective.

Users need to be conscientious about the messages they spread because of how it will affect others reading their content. Fake news is hard to control because one person’s truth may be another person’s lie. However, when someone’s beliefs may cause harm to society it is no longer acceptable to share those opinions or content behind those thoughts. This ideology comes from the Supreme Court case , United States versus Alvarez,  where the court has upheld that it is within the right of an individual to lie until those lies cause serious outcomes (Ferran). This way of thought can be applied to how fake news should be treated. Users have the right to voice their opinions until they infringe on others’ rights as citizens. With so many users on sites like Facebook and Twitter, it is hard to ensure that young people and those that are not educated about the dangers of fake news are aware that not all of the content they may pass is true or objective. This can become an issue with those who are impressionable and can hinder someone from having a clear, objective view of the world around them. People that share content on social media must be aware of who might see that content and how they will perceive it.

The first line of defense against fake news is the education of users on social media sites and tools to help them stop fake news. Creators of fake news will target those who do not necessarily know what content is true or not but will share or comment regardless. In a commentary about facebook and fake news, physicist Mark Buchanan  stated: “…the most important catalyst of fake news was the precision with which the purveyor targeted an audience … the  key was to seed an initial cluster of believers, who would share or comment on the item, recommending it to others through Twitter or Facebook” (Buchanan). In most cases, those users do not even know they are being targeted. If people were to know about techniques that can be used to identify fake news, they would be less likely to pass it on and thus would hinder the spread of fake news. One way to educate users is to teach people early in life to notice what they are seeing on the internet is not necessarily true. Children in schools are taught about internet safety and how to avoid predators. This method of teaching could also integrate information about fake news and kids would have a head start in protecting themselves against malicious and false content. Another way to educate people would be for companies to have a comprehensive, validated page about what fake news is and how to spot it. Users that want to stop fake news would be able to take control of their own education and work to ensure that they help to stop false content from spreading further. Luckily some companies have been making steps in the right direction to help users fight the spread of fake news. Facebook has created a new feature that will allow people to click a button that will show them the source and information surrounding the content that they are reading. This feature will allow for people to gather information behind the article without having to go elsewhere to research the content (Salinas). People are more likely learn about an article if they do not have to go to other sites to find out about the source behind the content. With tools in place to educate people about news articles, people can make better decisions about what to post on their pages. But ultimately it is up to users to make sure they are using the feature and critically thinking about what content they share.   

So why should students at the University of Tennessee care about what is painted on the rock or what others post in their social media? As members of an institution of higher learning we should hold ourselves to a higher standard of what is acceptable to post and what messages should be shared. If one is privileged enough to earn a higher degree of education, that education should be used to ensure that the content they pass on social media is credible and true. This also applies to users that want to stop fake news. If a person can recognize why fake news is bad, they should do what they can to stop it in its tracks. It is important to remember that one person cannot stop fake news but together we can make a difference.

Works Cited

Buchanan, Mark. “Commentary: Why fake news spreads like wildfire on Facebook.Chicago Tribune, 3 Sept. 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-fake-news-google-facebook-0904-story.html.

Ferran, Lee. “Supreme Court Strikes Down Stolen Valor: You Can Lie About Military Service.” ABC News, 28 June 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/supreme-court-strikes-stolen-valor-lie-military-service/story?id=16669096.

Russell, Dedrick. “Ardrey Kell HS principal concerned over messages painted on school rock.” WBTV News, 28 Apr. 2016, http://www.wbtv.com/story/31843906/ardrey-kell-hs-principal-concerned-over-messages-painted-on-school-rock.

Salinas, Sara. “Facebook will let you tap a button to figure out if a story you’re reading is fake news.” CNBC, 5 Oct. 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/05/facebook-will-test-adding-context-to-news-stories.html.