Fake news can be regarded as an archetypal feature of an individual’s life as people have been bombarded by different types of information. The first acquaintance with fake news takes place in people’s childhood when children tell stories that they make up. White lies and incredible fairy-tales, and April’s fool jokes can be regarded as primitive examples of fake news that have become an indispensable part of people’s lives.
However, fake news in adulthood is not a harmless childhood experience as they can lead to quite serious consequences. For instance, Allcott and Gentzkow (2017) state that fake news played quite an important role during the presidential elections of 2016.
Fake stories made people change their attitude towards this or that candidate and give their votes to the other one. It has been acknowledged that the use of fake news in the political arena has become a global issue, as fake news shaped people’s political decisions during votes in Great Britain, France, and other countries. A brief causal analysis shows that fake news associated with the political sphere comes into existence due to people’s psychological peculiarities, political rivalry, real-life situations, and the development of technology.
The predisposing cause of the occurrence of fake news is human psychological peculiarities. The first reason for this is that people tend to trust their social contacts. Shao, Ciampaglia, Varol, Flammini, and Filippo Menczer (2017) state that people are vulnerable to fake information as they do not question the data they obtain through sources they see as reputable such as people they know, channels they find reliable, and the like.
Apart from reliance on channels that are deemed reliable, people often focus on the information consistent with their beliefs, views, and so on. For example, Allcott and Gentzkow (2017) found that during the presidential election in the USA, people were much more likely to believe fake news if the information was favorable for their candidate. In simple terms, people are often ready to be deceived as they want to make sure their attitudes are correct. Fake news can also help people justify their choices later on. Therefore, it is possible to note that cognitive peculiarities of human brain serve as the perfect background for the spread of fake news.
The principal cause of this spread is an attempt to achieve certain goals. The question concerning the ethical component is still without an answer, but different groups used fake news as their tool to achieve their political (or other) goals. For instance, supporters of Trump are believed to make up various fake stories to make their candidate look better in the eyes of potential voters. Similar accusations could be heard in Great Britain and France.
Some groups tried to affect people’s attitudes and even behaviors. Frier (2017) emphasizes that the vast majority of fake stories were favorable for Trump. It is also noteworthy that the principal cause of fake news appearance and spread is the desire to shape make candidates, individuals or events look less attractive. For example, one of the fake stories made a man with a rifle come to a restaurant where reportedly people were abused and try to save the victims (Frier, 2017).
Trying to affect people’s emotions was also quite common during the presidential elections in the USA. Some people claim that these attempts affected the results of the elections and could have a dramatic impact on the development of the country. Hence, it is necessary to stress that the principal cause of fake news is people’s desire to shape certain views, attitudes, etc.
The precipitating cause of the occurrence and rapid spread of news is, ironically, real-life situations. These actual events serve as a background for the development and distribution of fake news. For example, Frier (2017) mentions such fake news as the death of the officer who investigated the scandal related to Clinton’s email. A real-life situation (the investigation of the scandal) made certain groups or individuals come up with the fake information concerning the alleged death of the investigator.
Another fake news was related to Trump’s supposed inappropriate words concerning conservative voters (Frier, 2017). The basis for this fake story was the candidate’s manners and his quite specific views and behaviors. People tend to believe fake news as it is closely related to previously learned facts or well-known information. Many people believe that reliability of news can be ensured by previous events. In simple words, even a brief and quite a vague reference to a well-known fact can make a person feel that something can be the truth. In conclusion, the precipitating cause of the development and spread of fake news is real-life events.
Finally, the perpetuating cause of the development and spread of fake news is the development of technology. Social networks have become potent channels of information sharing. Kucharski (2016) compares the spread of news via social networks with the spread of infectious disorders. People share news without checking its reliability as it is so easy to click the corresponding button and become a source of some kind of news.
Importantly, people tend to make mistakes, leave out details, exaggerate, and so on. Users facilitate the spread of fake data as the modified stories become more and more attractive. Another reason for that is people’s desire to be a part of a larger group or digital community. Every user of a social network has an opportunity to become a journalist and unveils some important or interesting facts, so many people become the sources of disinformation (Kucharski, 2016).
The development of technology has also contributed to the spread of fake news as machines (or the so-called bots) could generate and spread fake news (Shao et al., 2017). Hence, technological advances have become a perpetuating cause of the spread and creation of fake news.
On balance, it is possible to note that the occurrence and spread of fake news are caused by people’s cognitive peculiarities, political agendas, real events, and technological advances. Importantly, the creators of fake stories can be people, social media users, and even machines. Interestingly, social networks users spread the fake news unintentionally due to the lack of attention to detail, their inability or unwillingness to check the reliability of information, as well as due to their desire to become journalists or simply contribute to the overall knowledge base.
Social networks have become quite influential channels. Fake news has proved to have quite a significant effect on people’s and even nations’ lives so far, which makes it essential to develop effective tools to address the issue. It is necessary to pay specific attention to the development of strategies aimed at bringing order to social media that have become uncontrolled sources of disinformation.
Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211-236.
Frier, S. (2017). Fake news, Trump and the pressure on Facebook: Quick take Q&A. Bloomberg. Web.
Kucharski, A. (2016). Post-truth: Study epidemiology of fake news. Nature, 540(7634), 525-540.
Shao, C., Ciampaglia, G. L., Varol, O., Flammini, A., & Menczer, F. (2017). The spread of fake news by social bots. Web.
Fake News Understanding