Posted by Gabrielle Dunbar ● 07-Dec-2017 08:00:00

How to combat Fake News

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Fake news is not a new phenomenon, it is as old as the media itself. However, what is new is the speed and ease in which it is shared around the Internet. Fake news is defined as ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting’ and is seen to be an issue for PR practitioners as it causes the public to loose trust in news sources.

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We have seen the term ‘Fake News’ thrown around a lot in the media recently with un-truths during and after the 2016 US general election and the Brexit decision bringing the term into the spotlight.

During the 2016 US presidential elections, Donald Trump became a big user of the term "fake news", which some have argued is the main reason that he came into power as he was often seen influencing fake news stories and events.

We can see that Trump is in turmoil with the issue of fake news as one moment he is preaching about how fake news is casting a negative effect on his presidency while the next he is advocating the use of it. Furthermore, he launched a website titled the ‘real news’ show on Facebook to highlight all his achievements which he argues are being kept in the dark by all the fake news around.

 

How Facebook is helping to combat fake news:

Metadata:

Facebook has outlined a key area that has been used and abused by fake news, metadata. Therefore, to tackle this issue, they have restricted authors from overriding link metadata. Without getting to complex, they have stopped separate pages linking headlines, images and descriptions to separate pages to help reduce the spread of fake news. Although this is a relatively new proposal, Facebook will be monitoring its success over the next few months. It will be tracking patterns of all their content including repeat posting of the same material and user interaction to try and understand patterns and reactions to fake news sources.


Spotting fake news early:

Some key steps can be taken to spot fake news as quickly as possible.

1. Trust the source – make sure the source has legitimate contact details and explore previous articles or statements made to understand their mission.

2. Know the author – make sure they are credible and in fact real. Read some previous work to understand their credibility.

3. Secondary sources – check on click-through direct from the article or explore further sources agreeing with the story.


Following these steps should make spotting fake news more effective and time efficient for PR practitioners.

Keep everyone informed:

As the world of fake news ever increases it is important that all practitioners are clear on how their own agency/business wants to reply if it falls on them. A clear response plan will reduce panic and confusion if a story breaks, whilst also allowing everyone to quickly and effectively respond, reducing the impact. Make sure everyone is clear on company policies of what can and cannot be said to reduce the possibility of another story being created.

Ethics:

Being ethically responsible is an essential quality all PR professionals must follow. In the UK both the CIPR and the PRCA provide ethical frameworks that can be used as a basis for all practitioners to follow. Firms can minimise the risk of fake news by hiring practitioners and communication teams that strictly adhere to an ethical code of conduct set out by an appropriate industry association. All agencies should also have their own ethical framework for employees to follow with the CIPR and PRCA both providing frameworks to use.

If you find yourself stuck in sticky water and don’t have a crisis communication plan, don’t hesitate to get in contact with a member of the Champion team.

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Topics: PR, PRCA, fake news