New media:
What is turning social media into fake news? 

New Media:

What is turning Social Media into Fake News?

This year’s NHH-Symposium will be about discussing the themes that are shaping the world right now. On the list of themes worth discussing in 2019 you might find the issue of sustainability, a shift in the world power balance, trust and chaos in global institutions, and lastly, how new media shapes society.

The last theme; the use of new media, might be a polarizing one. The implementation of new communication platforms based around mobile technology has revolutionized the way we absorb information. However, the usefulness of this technology is regularly up for discussion.

New social media platforms have become natural parts of any ambitious communication strategy, and a useful tool for aspiring politicians. The broad specter of political personalities on social media platforms have made the market of keeping the attention even more competitive. The winners of the contest are the ones who understand the social media engine and algorithms the best and ensure that their message goes viral. Even graphic designers are hired to create memes and videos that are simplistic yet serves the purpose of discrediting the opponent or creating a certain desired view point and perception.

In the realm of media utilization, a new way of shaping a message has taken ahold.
“Fake news” is the new buzz word around. But what is it actually? It seems to be shaped by and shapes the twenty first century by passing on information grounded in biases, to influence the audience and further an agenda. Fake news might just be a furthering of the propaganda that has existed in the world for centuries.

What then is the point of fake news, and why is it being used? A selective presentation of facts can aid the audience in the developing of a certain view point and can through loaded language help elicit an emotional response rather than a rational one.  This tactic is favorable in today’s world where the amount of data generated every second far outweighs the information humans are able to absorb. Humans have a tendency to seek out the information that is the most aligned with one’s preexisting beliefs- confirmation bias. Combine this phenomenon with newsfeed algorithms that are designed to enclose an individual in an echo chamber, where every belief, opinion and interest is being interpreted by algorithms, molding our vision of the world and simplifying the reality of a world we find dizzyingly complex.

Lately, this way of shaping perspectives has been used by some personalities, surfing on the newest wave of populism. Politicians like Trump, Marine Le Pen and Sylvi Listhaug have successfully amassed support through sharing content which attempts to portray political opinions as facts. The results of this are all around us. Demonstrations, heated debates and visibly polarized nations.

Is new media to blame? Not necessarily. The implementation of new media platforms was inherently a sound device that connected the world and led to globalization of ideas in the truest sense. But the business model has been hijacked. Should we stop using social media because we are being used as raw materials for propagandists? Do the cons outweigh the pros? Stopping the use of these newer platforms might stagger our development.

The coming weeks we will delve into how the different aspects of the new media experience affects our lives. Stay tuned!

Daniyal Arif

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