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Factors in the Rise of Fake News

Up next at ANZCA 2017 is Sarah Baker, who again reminds us that the bending of the truth that 'fake news' alludes to is hardly new. Political propaganda has been used throughout the ages to mobilise the masses in favour of particular courses of action, but those masses have also become more adept at spotting such false stories. The latest tide of 'fake news' is again political, but also deeply connected with economic motives.

Recent developments are further complicated by the specific structures and affordances of social media, as the latest techno-social spaces for the dissemination of 'fake news'. Further, there is an increasing rejection of the idea of a simple, fixed truth; if truth is no longer objective, of course, then different audiences might be more prepared to choose those stories that support their own pre-existing political values and beliefs. However, this is not necessarily very different from more conventional audience choices between differently biased media outlets.

There is a long history of the diversification in media outlets representing different political viewpoints, which well predates the rise of the Web as the key medium for news dissemination; some scholars also suggest that the dissemination of explicitly 'fake news' was a great deal more difficult in the pre-Web era. In the context of Brexit, for instance, profiling company Cambridge Analytica has been talked up as an important instrument in targetting the delivery of 'fake news' to susceptible populations more effectively.

(I must admit I disagree deeply with some of the premises in this talk... Sorry if I missed something here.)