Identifying and Countering Fake News
34 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2017 Last revised: 3 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 1, 2017
Fake news has become a controversial, highly contested issue recently. But in the public discourse, “fake news” is often used to refer to several different phenomena. The lack of clarity around what exactly fake news is makes understanding the social harms that it creates and crafting solutions to these harms difficult. This report identifies several distinct types of fake news: hoax, propaganda, trolling, and satire. It specifies distinct features of each type that can be targeted by regulation to shift its production and dissemination. The report introduces a visual matrix to organize different types of fake news and show the ways in which they are related and distinct. The two defining features of fake news are 1) whether the author intends to deceive readers and 2) whether the motivation for creating fake news is financial. These distinctions are a useful first step towards crafting solutions that can target the pernicious forms of fake news (hoaxes and propaganda) without chilling the production of socially valuable satire. Finally, the study identifies several possible solutions based on changes to law, markets, code, and norms. These starting points include: expanding legal protections for Internet platforms to encourage them to pursue editorial functions; creating new platforms that do not rely on online advertising; encouraging existing platforms to experiment with technical solutions to identify and flag fake news; and encouraging platforms to use their own powerful voices to criticize inaccurate information.
Keywords: fake news, politics, election, satire, hoax, trolling, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, platform, privacy, Section 230, First Amendment, freedom of speech
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