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Journalists Speak Up on Fake News

March 19, 2017

The term “fake news” has often been used in a political context (especially in the last few months), but there are serious implications for technology companies and for broader society as well.

 

Let’s be clear. Fake news is not an error in reporting. Fake News is a deliberate attempt to mislead you. And now everyone is searching for the truth and clues on how to navigate a new world where facts seem to carry far less weight.

 

I attended a March #FakeNewsSF panel arranged by LEWIS in downtown San Francisco, hosted by LEWIS. Panelists included Matt Rosoff (CNBC), Katie Benner (The New York Times), Jon Swartz (USA Today) and Alex Kantrowitz (Buzzfeed).

 

Below are three key takeaways from journalists:

 

- It’s a Cat and Mouse Game: If you run a fake news website and it’s taken offline or blacklisted, it’s incredibly easy to spin up another website to replace it. There is a very low entry barrier to create fake content and have it shared via social media.

 

- Follow the Money: At the end of the day, technology companies care about the bottom line, and tackling the issue of fake news will cost them. Panelist Katie Benner (of the New York Times) even said social media companies are profiting off of fake news – as they’re creating communities that self-reinforce their beliefs (which keeps users happier and more engaged with the platform, whereupon they see more ads).

 

- Don’t Blame the Algorithm: Technology companies, and the algorithms that power them, were built by people. Fake news isn’t a bug in a company’s software, it’s a problem that investors, executives, partners, employees, and users all must confront. It’s not the technology, it’s how it’s being used.  

 

That said, efforts to combat fake news are finally getting more aggressive. German lawmakers, for example, are considering a rule that levy a 500,000 euro fine against Facebook for any piece of fake news that was not removed within 24 hours, according to

 

And it’s getting more insidious. Want to know how? Shoot us an email at hello@lookleftforgrowth.com to get an early preview of our report: “Falling for Fakery.”

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