By Matt Brux
On Wednesday, October 24th, the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and SPC Seminole Campus hosted a forum that attempted to explain what exactly “fake” news is, how it spreads, and what role it plays in our society. Each panelist discussed different aspects of the creation and how “fake” news spreads through technology, as well as potential ways the public can help stop the spread of misinformation.
“As soon as a piece of breaking news emerges, whatever it relates to, misinformation surrounds it,” said Alexios Mantzarlis, the Director of the International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute. He explained that misinformation and opinion results in an abundance of faulty and inaccurate news sources and is caused by three main factors: technology, trust, and Trump-like political speech. He further pushed the idea that media is unreliable by pointing out that sites like Google and Facebook choose popularity over accuracy, and the public has no clue what information is correct.
Mantzarlis explained that the spread misinformation can be stopped, but only if journalists listen to their audience, and the public participates in fact-checking the information divulged by news sources. In addition, he pointed out that the community needs to do more research on how misinformation spreads and what causes the general public to trust or mistrust information.
Dr. John Duff, the Baccalaureate Academic Chair for the College of Computer and Information Technology at St. Petersburg College, discussed the role technology plays in the spread and creation of “fake” news. He explained that misinformation is easily spread through technology, simply because you can reach anyone at any time and say anything you want online. He further explored this topic by explaining how the ability to make money via popular social media posts results in the spread of “fake” news. Dr. Duff also touched on the idea that linking fake information to real events results in the creation of “fake” news.
“You don’t know exactly what it is; you know it when you see it,” Chris Ingram, a Political Commentator and the President of 411 Communications, said while he was defining what “fake” news was. He doesn’t believe there is a concrete definition for “fake” news; however, he did analyze the media’s role in its creation. Ingram explained that the extensive presence of opinion and bias in news media results in a misinformed and unaware public. He declared that until the media recognizes its role in the creation and spreading of misinformation, nothing will change.
After each speaker delivered their presentations, a panel discussion was moderated by David Klement, the Executive Director for the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC. During this time, the panelists answered specific questions given to them by Klement. Before closing, the panel allowed a Q/A where the audience was allowed to ask any of the panelists unique questions regarding the topic of “fake” news.
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