We have seen an explosion of fake news. It’s amazing how quickly a new phrase can become part of day-to-day speech in our culture and there is no better example of this than the term ‘fake news’. So, what is ‘fake news’? Well, this is not as easy to define as you may think so we’ve borrowed the two definitions found on the BBC website:
- False stories that are deliberately published or sent around, in order to make people believe something untrue or to get lots of people to visit a website. These are deliberate lies that are put online, even though the person writing them knows that they are made up.
- Stories that may have some truth to them, but they’re not completely accurate. This is because the people writing them – for example, journalists or bloggers – don’t check all of the facts before publishing the story, or they might exaggerate some of it.
As you can see from above, even though the term is new, fake news is nothing new at all.
MP’s last week claimed that fake news is becoming such a big problem, it’s starting to ‘crowd out’ real news – as a result, they are calling for new laws to clamp down on the ‘wild west’ of social media.
This all sounds well and good – the problem is where you draw the line between real and fake news? Who gets to decide? What defines a ‘reputable’ news outlet versus a ‘reputable’ one? Even the world’s most respected news outlets have been shown to demonstrate their own bias when they have a particular slant or form of propaganda they wish to follow – see here and here for two examples we’ve covered concerning the conflict in the Middle East. This is an interesting read too that exposes the overt anti-Russian propaganda produced by the BBC that would qualify as fake news under their own definition!
There is no doubt that legislation will be forthcoming at some point in the future in an attempt to curtail the explosion of fake news. However, it is very likely this will be used by mainstream and established media outlets to silence opposition to the popular narrative at any given time. For example, the ‘Leave’ campaign is currently being accused of promoting fake news during the Brexit referendum (even though both sides were most likely guilty of this in a campaign that was extremely distasteful whichever ‘side’ you were on). There is little doubt the mainstream media would use this legislation to further promote their own agenda and eliminate any opposition.
The problem which the definitions above are that they are incredibly broad – virtually any news story could be defined as fake news depending on the perspective of the listener. When is a ‘fact’ a ‘fact’?! What amount of ‘checking’ is sufficient?! Everyone has a bias – it is impossible to be completely impartial.
To further demonstrate this, let’s look at some other examples: Many would argue that the resurrection of Jesus Christ fits into the category of fake news. Many allege the resurrection was simply the result of exaggeration or wishful thinking, if not a deliberate hoax. Would that be described as fake news? Would new legislation affect the proclamation of the gospel by churches that hold to the literal resurrection of Christ?
What about scientific theories that are presently popular such as global warming and Darwinian evolution? These are based on exaggerated ‘facts’ or a biased ‘interpretation’ of the available data – does this qualify as fake news?
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There is unquestionably an air of arrogance from the mainstream media over this issue who we imagine feel threatened by news outlets that primarily use social media as their platform as opposed to the TV screens.
The Bible speaks of a coming time of unparalleled deception in the end times that will deceive the masses – the mainstream press will not be the source of reliable journalism during this time and it is highly likely those speaking the truth will be loudly accused of spreading ‘fake news’! At times like this, it’s wise to check as many of the facts behind a news story as possible and see the reporting of a story from news outlets who come from other vantage points. There is deception in everything as mass media continues to compete for our attention. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to decide what to believe – it is prudent not to take any news story at face value…
These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD. (Zechariah 8:16-17 NIV)