Professional Journalists’ Quest to Expose Fake News by Politicians Via Social Media
by Kristen Hungerford — Miami University of Ohio, Hamilton Campus
February 10, 2017 – 17:49
Of all the ways that fake news has been given a platform over the last year, none may be as powerful as when fake news stories are tweeted or recirculated by politicians. For example, according to politifact.com, 50% of tweets made by Donald Trump on his private twitter account – maintained both prior to and currently as president – have been rated as false or inaccurate regarding his statements on the facts of current events. This trend of politicians circulating fake news via social media is especially troubling and dangerous to upholding a free press as is evident in the second segment of the posted CNN clip, “Reliable Sources Essay: What Typos say about Trump.” The Hutchins Commission’s report of 1947 advocated for the establishment of the watchdog press to insure that professional journalists would provide more responsible, accurate, in-depth and diverse reporting on current events. However, in today’s digital era professional journalists of democratic societies still acting as prominent members of the watchdog press have their hands full to monitor politicians who remain active on personal network accounts while serving in office. For example, social media users look to politicians when they speak on a network. In this digital era politicians and everyday persons alike have the ability to endlessly tweet, share, and post dishonest stories with the push of a button. These potentially relentless discussions and circulation of fake news stories by politicians is especially dangerous for everyday social media users who quickly glance over the content of untruthful posts. Yes, professional journalists from organizations - such as The Washington Post and Politifact - do continue to rate the truthfulness of stories shared by politicians via social media, and some social networks - such as Twitter and Facebook - have implemented flagging options to question and/or detect fake news. However, the alarming rate of political-based tweets and posts by politicians as private citizens becomes too overwhelming for the everyday social media users to closely follow what is being flagged as truthful or not. Therefore, employees of social media networks and professional journalists alike have the difficult task of upholding ethical standards when reporting on and exposing dishonest news. They have an ethical duty to report and find the truth, even in politician’s posts as private citizens, while at the same time likely acknowledging the daunting task of never fully being able to close the case once declaring a news story to be false or misleading. Whereas in other mediums, such as during a segment of a TV news broadcast, a news reporter’s debunking of a politician’s public statement caught on camera, for example, would likely put the issue to rest for good. With all of these exhaustive but necessary measures to protect democracy by exposing the truth concerning current events, professional journalists prove to be working on an uphill battle to adhere to the social responsibility model of a free press, especially in regards to social media. Without professional journalists’ relentless quest to secure accurate facts regarding reports on current events, our democracy would likely crumble. Especially when politicians have utilized the most accessible platform for circulating fake news – social media - for their own personal, professional, and/or political gain.