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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2344

Fake News: it’s real!

Hemantha Abeywardena writes form London…

While barring the BBC, CNN and a few more news organizations from the daily media briefings, President Trump has characteristically elevated his fight against the press to a critical level, implicitly making them synonymous with the latest catchphrase, the fake news.

Adding insult to injury, President Trump pulled out of White House Correspondents’ annual dinner at the eleventh hour in a tweet.

Unlike his predecessors, President Trump seems to be determined to take on what he calls, the ‘dishonest media’, with ‘come what may’ attitude. The media, in turn, loses no time in depicting the picture of the administration at the White House, at best being chaotic and at worst being on the brink of collapse with in-fighting for individual supremacy rife among the key players.

During the campaign, Mr Trump dismissed every single opinion poll that was not in his favour as phoney. In retrospect, he could have easily pointed his agile finger at the combination of polls, punditry and analyses that predicted his loss at the presidential polls, in order to classify them as fake news.

His millions of followers toe the line and believe what their hero says as gospel truth; they have very little sympathy for the main stream media.

As the social media is fast becoming an alternative to the established news media, fake news has already found a firm foothold in the rapidly-evolving dominion. With its exponential growth on many different fronts, a mesmerizing influence it has on a significant number of inhabitants on the blue planet and the near-impossible task of monitoring what is in circulation by human beings, the spread of fake news has become something unstoppable.

Having come under intense criticism for putting up with the fake news, the major social networking sites are promising to come down hard on the culprits: since the monitoring of news by the human beings is next to impossible, due to the sheer size of information and the cost, all they can do is to rewrite their algorithms - complex sets of instructions written for computers – in the hope of nipping the menace in the bud; it is easier said than done, though.

Promoted new items, sometimes even on the traditional news media sites, meanwhile, are adding a new dimension to the problem; all they need is an eye-catching headline that sounds topical or controversial; the news item, then, has the potential to go wild, especially if it is connected to a celebrity , politician or an even a criminal.

With the increased flow of traffic to the site in question, the creators of the news thrive on the new-found notoriety, even if it is short-lived. If the site is blacklisted by major search engines in the worst-case scenario, all they have do is to register a new domain and start the same old game.

For instance, I saw recently in many news websites, a promoted item that showed a picture of a famous father holding his palm near the belly of an equally famous daughter with the caption – this is what the famous so and so doesn’t want you to see; when you follow the link, it leads to a set of few more links –and questionably placed advertisements, clicking on which generate money for the news creator - only to find nothing that really is newsworthy.

Those who cash in on the misdemeanours of celebrities do exactly the same: they just pick on a human flaw, exaggerates it wildly up until it becomes emotionally explosive and then attach a headline to attract web traffic – and then make money.

On its part, the mainstream media must admit its share of responsibility, when it comes to addressing the seriousness of this issue, especially when they take sides in a conflict, while giving the opposite the opportunity to brand the media in question for having a motive fuelled by an agenda.

This is exactly what President Bashar al-Assad of Syria did recently, when the Amnesty International accused his government of summary executions that ran into thousands; he bluntly dismissed it as fake news! He may not be the only leader who would find solace in the new buzzword that sweeps across the world.

Never in the history of the US did the administration fall foul of the media over fake news. As the Trump administration struggles to overcome multiple hurdles in its quest to fulfil campaign promises, the conflict between the two camps can only get worse with no clear winner in sight.

President Trump’s supporters, meanwhile, may have to endure a new form of reality while being sandwich between the hope and despair with a sticky layer of hype and hatred in between.

- Asian Tribune -

Fake News: it’s real!
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