Coming to Terms with Fake News

newsFake news (the “purposely deceptive” kind, not the “I don’t like it” kind) is starting to be recognized in American society for the threat to democracy which it is.

Two major development occurred recently.

First, the Mueller investigation issued 13 indictments against Russian nationals for efforts to subvert the 2016 election. While the indictments are consistent with what American intelligence agencies have been saying for many months, the fact that the announcement comes from the Mueller investigation and actually names real people brings a new level of legitimacy and concern to the issue.

Second, a new Air Force research paper (as reported in the Washington Post) provides many specific examples of how Russian, Islamic State, and other propagandists effectively manipulate Twitter and other social media platforms to sow dissent and falsehoods. Efforts are at the national level — such as support for the Trump or Sanders campaigns — or at the local level — such as effectively heightening racial tensions at the University of Missouri.

While the description of the problems are detailed, the description of effective solutions are not. At least the first step to confronting the issue of fake news is to clearly identify and define the problem.

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