Social Media and Fake News

By Mackenzy Hand


By this point we have all heard of the viral phenomenon sweeping the globe. It goes by many aliases: fake news, alternative facts and what have you, but one thing remains the same, it just isn’t the truth. What makes this “fake news” such a problem is that it is so easy to circulate and share that it is almost impossible to regulate. What’s more is that it is quickly becoming difficult to differentiate between fact and opinion. How to we stop this? How do we get to a place where we can share real, factual information, and be okay with it?

In order to stop fake news, we must first understand and address its origins. A perfect example of a fake news story that went viral is Texas native, Eric Tucker’s tweet in which he mentions paid protesters being bussed into a demonstration against then-President-elect Donald Trump. Tucker’s tweet read “Anti-Trump protesters in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in. #fakeprotests #trump2016 #austin,” and was accompanied by this photo:fullsizeoutput_2a1

The post blew up. It was being liked and shared left and right. Did Tucker think that his post was going to get this kind of attention? Probably not. But that’s the way this fake news stuff works. People latch on to these ideas that in some way fit their agenda or their personal feelings on a matter, and they go nuts with it.

The director of corporate affairs for the bus company that Tucker spoke of and displayed in his tweet, Sean Hughes, had some thoughts on the matter. In an interview with a Fox television reporter, Hughes said “You’re the second journalist to actually call me to see what was going on…and we’re easily accessible on our website.” Hughes added, “I just kind of wish people looked into the facts before they go ahead and do something like that.” This just goes to show the lack of effort that many people make in putting truth into the things that they say or report.fullsizeoutput_2a3

Tucker later deleted his original tweet and reposted it with a “FALSE” watermark across the top of it. But by that point it had little effect. It had already been put out there into the twitterverse and had jumped from social media platform to platform, and people were rolling with it. In my opinion people were enjoying the sensationalism of it all.

What needs to happen is a serious talk about the severity of the fake news situation. Stanford News reported that television remains the go-to place for political news, but it is clear that social media is quickly coming up in the ranks. The problem is that anyone with an opinion and internet access can spread whatever garbage they want, and the even bigger problem with that, is someone will believe them, and someone will believe them, and it spreads from there. We need to address this. We need to fix this problem, we need to stop reporting fallacies and be honest with each other. It is the honest information that counts, and we need figure out how to spread the truth, and nothing but the truth, before trust in the media is lost all together.

Stanford News
New York Times
Fox 5

New York Times

Published by

UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism