What is Fake News?

What is Fake News? We are bombarded with this expression almost every day. Sometimes used to attack opponents, sometimes to describe certain types of content published in the media and online. We can certainly say we all have an idea about what it is and we’re all a bit tired of its overuse.

How did it start?

If we look, we can find Fake News almost in every period of history. It can go as far as the Roman Empire.

In 2016, a lot of misinformation was spread in social media networks like Facebook. According to a BBC article, there were several stories published and shared that were originated in an Eastern European town. These stories were fabricated but its bombastic headlines were generating lots of clicks and money to those who wrote them. With Donald Trump running for President of the United States, any story, true or false, about him would generate traffic and, of course, money.

Donald Trump himself, started using and misusing, the term and suddenly it was everywhere.

Who created the term?

After doing some research, it is not 100% clear to me who did create this term. But I believe it wasn’t Donald Trump. I found articles claiming it was used in the media in the 19th Century. Merriam-Webster  also wrote some examples of the expression being used in the 19th Century. The article also states that the word “fake” came in substitution for the word “ false” and the term “false news”.

The concept of “Fake News” has been a reality for centuries and, for me, that goes beyond the expression itself or who, in fact, used it for the first time.

Donald Trump … the creator, or “Fake News” himself?

In 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and after that, the term has been used for almost everything.  He has accused political opponents, or media outlets that oppose his rhetoric of being “Fake News”. He has used the term as a way of offending those who don’t agree with him.  You either on his side or you are “Fake News”. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

But he has also been part of the “Fake News”, in fact, he is a regular creator of “Fake News”.  In his response to COVID-19 (or lack thereof) for example. From saying that chloroquine, the famous malaria treatment, was effective against the virus, to his infamous press conference telling people to inject disinfectant because it would kill the virus … and themselves too I must add!

Although false, these stories have a very high impact and usually generate a lot of interest. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous or bizarre they might be.

But, what is “Fake News”?

Well, “Fake News” are fabricated stories with sensationalised headlines and content to attract the maximum amount of people. It can be used to attack a political opponent or competitor, it can be used to promote a certain agenda, to create division among the population and of course make a lot of money for those who create it.