The Fake News epidemic is upon us.

2016 saw a rapid increase of fake news stories popping up online. Ever since the rise of new media, traditional news sources have slowly been pushed out. People are increasingly turning to online sources to receive the latest news updates and trends. The internet has become the world’s number one news source. This means that it generates a larger news following than TV, Radio or traditional newspapers.

New media creates a space where anyone can compose and upload news stories from their unique perspective. More credible online news sites have experienced journalists that publish news stories on their websites. Online news can become extremely opinionated and thus the objectivity and strictly unbiased news we’ve come to expect from traditional news sources are rarely found online. The development and popularity of online news media has given rise to the fake news epidemic. Fake news can be defined as false news pieces that are deliberately published to mislead the public. It most commonly appears as clickbait or promises to reveal something about a popular individual.

It’s Spreading…

The publication and circulation of fake news increased dramatically in 2016 surrounding the American Hillary vs Trump election campaign. In South Africa, fake news has also become a serious problem. The last year has seen numerous fake news sites popping up publishing sensationalist and biased content.  The bittersweet characteristic of online news is that any post can go viral within minutes of being published. With regards to fake news this can have seriously negative effects as people often associate popularity with the truth. Fake news usually consists of punchy accusation style clickbait headlines. This means that more often than not, fake news sites receive more traffic than real news.

Be warned of these fake news websites circling South Africa:

  • CitySun
  •  IMzansi
  • News24-TV
  • Pretorialive
  • African News Update
  • South Africa Lastest News
  • Live Monitor

BUT Not everything unfavourable is FAKE

The term fake news has become very popular. Many country leaders and important officials have since abused the term and used it to describe any news they find unfavorable or threatening to their image. This conundrum has created even more insecurities

So what does this mean for brands?

On the bright side, since Fake News has become a buzzword millennial consumers have become increasingly sceptical about any information published online. Online news sources have been put under pressure to maintain their legitimacy and trust amongst the public. An increase in Fake News could mean that many people will revert back to traditional news sources in search of authenticity. It could also sway many Millennials in the direction of traditional news sources which could have a positive impact on traditional news companies. Many brands have already fell victim to fake news publications. A piece of false information is published and instantly goes viral, ruining the brands reputation and credibility.

 

What can Brands do about Fake News?

Original content creation is a big way to combat fake news.  It is important to invest in originally written information that is regularly updated on your company website. By publishing content that expresses the true nature of the brand you will have a platform that can stand up as a representation of the truth if any fake news is published. With Fake News time is crucial. If journalists or the company has no immediate way to validate their credibility it may be too late to rescue the company’s reputation. Having an interactive blog space on your company website can also improve website traffic and provide a quickly accessible platform that represents the company’s  side of the story. Besides content creation, if fake news has hit here’s what you can do:

  • Send out a quick public response
  • Involve employees in spreading positive information about the brand
  • If the Fake News has gone viral it can be beneficial to invest in paid media to boost your brand response and increase the amount of people who see it.

There is Hope..Maybe

 

Facebook and Google have started to implement policies that block information and advertisements coming directly from fake news websites. This means that hopefully, less fake news will be spread across Social Media platforms. However, other online communities like Taboola and Outbrain are only feeding the fire. At the moment, fake news can easily spread via these two sites through sensational stories or user content. Although Taboola declines any support of fake news, it has not implemented a way to monitor the content it promotes. When these promoted links are clicked both Taboola and the fake news source benefits which only escalates the problem. For now my advice is, share links responsibly, be critical of everything you read and think twice before you tarnish a brands reputation before having all the facts. Together we can rescue the news, it is worth rescuing after all.