Episode
January 17, 2018

What does the term "fake news" really mean?

US President Donald Trump's favourite phrase is being adopted and weaponised by a growing number of leaders around the world - many of them authoritarian.
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“Fake news”. If you tweet, watch TV or talk politics with your friends, it’s a phrase you can’t escape.

 

Though its first uses can be traced back more than 100 years, its current popularity is down to one man: US President Donald Trump. He first started using it as a cudgel with which to beat his critics while campaigning and, since his election, he has forced it into the popular lexicon. Not only in the US, but internationally.

 

Trump has said he plans on Wednesday to hand out awards for “fake news”. The announcement prompted ridicule from many, with several comedians actively campaigning to be nominated.

 

But is the growing popularity of the term not funny, but sinister? A Politico tally at the end of 2017 found that Trump’s preferred insult has become a favourite of authoritarian governments around the world, with leaders or state media in at least 15 countries using it to attack the media.

 

So, what does “fake news” really mean? Is its use as a slur here to stay? And is it even a useful description?

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Claire Wardle @cward1e
Research Fellow, Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School
clairewardle.com

Paul Levinson @PaulLev
Professor of Media Studies, Fordham University

Michelle Ciulla Lipkin @ciullalipkin
Executive Director, National Association for Media Literacy Education
namle.net 


Read more:
Trump’s 'fake news' mantra a hit with despots - Politico
The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online - Pew Research Center


What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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