FakeNews and the Role of the Media in the Advancement of Democracy
Ademocratic system of governance gives people an opportunity to electtheir own representatives. However, voters make decisions using theamount of information that is available to them. The media fills theinformation gap by ensuring that voters are able to get news that canhelp them identify weaknesses in the incumbent leadership and thepromises made by the candidates (Biswas 128). Voters can use thisinformation to change regimes or reinstate the incumbent leadership.The suitability of decisions made by voters is determined by thequality of information that is available to them. This paper willaddress the impact of false news and the role that the media plays ina democratic republic.
TheConcept of False News
Theidea of fake news is relatively new and it is attributed to themodern technology that allows a rapid dissemination of information.Fake news is spread by certain sites that deliberately misinform thepublic with the objective of influencing certain decisions (Hunt 1).The concept of false news gained popularity during the 2016 U.S.presidential campaigns where certain websites spread propaganda andhoaxes that changed the minds of many voters. This news may also beshared by millions of citizens on social media within a few minutes.
Itis possible to tell fake news, but readers are expected to apply alot of techniques that most of the audience may not have. Fake newsis spread by experts who make the contents appear legitimate and usethe online platforms to ensure that they reach the largest number ofthe target audience within the shortest time possible. Studies haveshown that, even the college students, who are believed to know moreabout the modern technology than the general public, are rarely ableto identify the fake news (Hunt 1). The first and the most reliablestrategy that the audience can use to spot the fake news is theevaluation of the source. Some sites (such as WTOE 5 News and BostonTribute) have been identified as some of the sites that spreadillegitimate information. Secondly, reading beyond the headline helpsreaders to assess the credibility of the entire article by comparingeach of the claims with the facts on the ground (Kiely 1). The thirdstrategy is the identification of support for the news. Most of thefacts made in the fake news are inconsistent with the support that isprovided.
RoleThat the Media Plays in a Democratic Republic
Themedia is expected to play two critical roles in a democraticrepublic. First, the media should provide the correct information tomembers of the public in order to help them make quality decisions.However, the information supplied to the members of the public shouldnot only be correct, but it should also be objective (Hafiz 1). Forexample, the media would have been expected to present the argumentsraised by both the Democrats and Republicans during the 2016presidential elections in order to empower the voters to judge thetwo political parties based on facts. The objective and correctinformation is critical because it ensures that citizens in ademocratic republic are able to weigh the ideas put forward by allpolitical parties and decide the one that they should support.
Secondly,the media is expected to play the oversight role. The media can playthis role by criticizing the acts and omissions of the incumbentgovernment and the opposition political parties. The ability of thecountry to achieve the economic, social, and political growth dependson whether the incumbent government and the opposition have thecapacity to carry out their respective mandates. The media criticizesthem in an objective way and informs the public on whether they areacting properly (Hafiz 1). The oversight role is carried out properlywhen the media companies are able to confirm the correctness of theallegations before reporting them to the public. The ability toassess the correctness of the information before publishing itdistinguishes between the media houses that provide accurateinformation from those that offer false news.
Themedia houses have been criticized for failing to carry out the rolesthat the society expects to play. However, the majority of the peopleagree that the media has evolved over the years, and it has acquiredthe capacity to shape a healthy democracy (Hafiz 1). Some people haveaccused the media of supplying fake news to the public, but there isno doubt that most of the mainstream companies (such as the CNN) haveserved as the backbone of a healthy democracy. These mainstream mediahouses have made the public more aware of different political,social, and economic issues that take place locally and in the world.Moreover, the radios as well as the television stations have beenable to broadcast in local languages, which have given them theopportunity to educate the rural masses, thus empowering them to takepart in the democratic processes. Therefore, the role of the mediacannot be ignored.
SocialMedia and Its Impact on the Process of Dissemination of the News
Theright to access information is among the key pillars of a healthydemocracy. The social media makes a significant impact in helpingpeople access information without incurring any cost as long as theyhave mobile devices and the internet connection. In addition, thesocial media enables people to share and receive information in realtime, which is an additional value that cannot be enjoyed whenrelying on the traditional platforms (Sahu 54). Most importantly, thesocial media sites give members of the public the opportunity tointeract with each other and share their ideas. The ability of thecitizens to interact enables them to analyze the news that isdisseminated though the social media platforms.
Theimpact that the social media has on the process of the disseminationof the news is positive. The social media bridges the time gap, whichhas made it a reliable source of news for over 62 % of the U.S.citizens (Noordyke 1). However, the dissemination of the informationusing this type of media platform has been associated with the spreadof false or fake news. Therefore, the social media networks impactthe overall quality of the news that reaches the public in a negativeway.
Examplesof Fake News
Thereare many examples of fake news that were reported during the 2016presidential election in the U.S. The first example pertained to theallegations that billionaire George Soros had paid protesters todisrupt the rallies organized by Republicans, which was believed tobe true by 73 % of Trump supporters (Hunt 2). This indicates themagnitude of the impact of the fake news. The second example involveda case where Hilary Clinton was accused of running the Comet PingPong, which is the headquarters of a sex ring for children (Hunt 1).The purpose of the fake news was to defame Clinton and reduce herpopularity during the campaigns. It is estimated that about 14 % ofTrump supporters believed that the fake news was true (Hunt 1). Thetwo sources of news were confirmed to be false because all linksattached to them were wrong. In addition, they were disseminatedthrough incredible sites that had a history of sharing fake news.
Theconcept of fake news can be explained in different ways. In mostcases, fake news is propagated by groups of people or individuals whointend to achieve some goals. In the aforementioned examples, theintention of spreading the fake news was to minimize the popularityof the Democratic presidential candidate and give the Republicannominee an opportunity to win the election (Hunt 1). In essence,members of the public do not prefer fake news, but there arepublished in a way that makes them hard to ignore. Although it ishard for ordinary citizens to determine whether news contents arefake, individual decision makers (including voters) have aresponsibility to assess the legitimacy of the information that theyconsume. Failure on the part of the citizens to determine thelegitimacy of the claims made in the news can lead to wrongdecisions.
Thegrowth of democracy is a critical process that requires the membersof the public to access information that they need in order to makequality decisions on economic, social, and political matters.Different media platforms play a critical role in bridging the gapbetween members of the public and the news. Technological advancementhas made it possible for citizens to access news in real-time and ina cost effective way, but it has created an opportunity for thedissemination of fake news. The fake news is likely to influence thepublic to make wrong decisions, especially during elections.Individual consumers of the news have the responsibility to carry outin the assessment of the legitimacy of the news that they get fromdifferent sources. By allowing people to access information, themedia plays a critical role in empowering citizens in a democraticrepublic to make quality decisions.
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