Essay on Fake News and the Future of Journalism
Number of words: 844
Fake News and the Future of Journalism by Pablo Boczkowski examines the rise of fake news penetration due to a new information-sharing infrastructure that is mostly unregulated. In the article, Boczkowski highlights the rise of new information sources such as social media and the internet and how they have contributed to the broader spread of fake news (Boczkowski, 2016). Ideally, the journalist examines the transformations in the media ecosystem, such as the addition of platforms such as Facebook and Google. Their opaqueness of content selection algorithms makes it harder for the public to identify information biases. Boczkowski, as such, argues that fake news is more likely to increase their penetration of the current informational climate as occasioned by the rise of unregulated information technology platforms such as Google and social media platforms such as Facebook.
The influence of fake news on the current informational ecosystem has made it harder to separate the truth from the falsified information. In the article, he offers that the new information infrastructure makes it possible to reach more people at a time. He argues that “Facebook […] reaches more than 1 billion users daily” (Boczkowski, 2016). Therefore, while fake news has always existed alongside truthful ones, their reach is even more comprehensive. The specific influence that is worrisome, however, comes from the difficulty in discerning fake news. Given that people can now create news content and share them alongside the traditional media, the new infrastructure threatens the future of journalism.
Boczkowski also argues that fake news helps to condition the public and divert them away from some truths. Ideally, he argues that the diversions might be made for commercial purposes, control, and distraction from the actual events. While he cautions against an ambivalent stance on the current informational infrastructure, he offers that a call for policing against the destabilizing capabilities of the new information transmission media might lead to the unintended consequence of curtailing the emancipatory potential that is contained in the very media. The algorithmic nature of the current media hides the content selection process from the public. This makes the public numb to the editorial process and harder to decipher the truth from the false information (Narwal, 2018). Therefore, fake news is more likely to have a larger impact on the public as compared to the past, where traditional mass media operated alone.
The three effects that Boczkowski perceives as the most damaging to society are the issues relating to public ambivalence to the new media types, the crisis in the cultural authority of knowledge, and the wider permeation of the new media infrastructure. Primarily, he argues that the ambivalence, where the public might seek policing on the negative impacts of new media only, might lead to the government’s general use of the media to control the types of communication allowed (Figueira, & Oliveira, 2017). At the same time, the lack of knowledge on the editorial processes of algorithms on platforms such as Google and Facebook makes it harder to identify truths from false information. This way, information consumption will include both aspects of false and true information. This desensitizes the public and leads to a higher rate of misinformation for either commercial or political gain.
Boczkowski appears pessimistic about the future of journalism. He offers that while there is a widespread outcry for technical solutions and commercial sanctions on sites that notoriously share false information, such solutions would be short-lived. This is because such platforms can rebrand and re-open under a different domain. Further, strong restrictions could also affect other news genres such as satire and parody, necessary for democratic discourse. Therefore, he argues that journalism would have to evolve along with the changes and compete for space by setting up open means for information discernment.
Fake news in American society has had a devastating impact. For instance, fake news has had a role in influencing public policies, voting patterns, and political affiliations. For example, the current rate of misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for vaccination has led a portion of the population to believe that vaccinations are unnecessary. The rapid spread of false anti-vaccination information has been made possible by digital media. This way, more people find it hard to find credible sources of information on various topics.
Boczkowski’s arguments stand on the role of digital media in spreading false information. The main area of contention is in difficulty presented in discerning the real and false information sources. Therefore, journalism needs to evolve and adapt digital media strategies that allow users to discern against various forms of information bias.
Boczkowski, P. J. (2016). Fake news and the future of journalism. NiemanLab. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/atd-fscj-writingabouttexts/chapter/fake-news-and-the-future-of-journalism-by-pablo-boczkowski/
Figueira, Á., & Oliveira, L. (2017). The current state of fake news: challenges and opportunities. Procedia Computer Science, 121, 817-825.
Narwal, B. (2018, October). Fake news in digital media. In 2018 International Conference on Advances in Computing, Communication Control and Networking (ICACCCN) (pp. 977-981). IEEE.