The new digital arena for information exchanges is limitless. When new form of mass communication develops, the power of political propaganda to influence the public opinions is enormous. It is an era where people find it hard to judge between the truth and falsehood, especially with information and news related to politics or choosing a leader. In many ways social media hands us a great deal of information, which is fast and more visual than the old form of communications; meanwhile, we lose our privacy, personality, identity and voice to the platform. Nowadays, people likes to depend on social media and the internet to learn about what’s happening around the world; therefore, so much blatant bias in political ideology is digested across media products, ranging from advertisements, news, entertainment, and education at large. We ask, what is fake news? Who is responsible for creating and spreading fake news? The answers could be conflated between multiple and specific sources, but according to Titcomb & Carson, fake news comes from “commercially- driven sensational content, nation-state sponsored misinformation, highly partisan news sites, social media itself, and satire and parody”. As a matter of fact, the rise of social media has destroyed the boundaries of news publishing, and allowed fake news amid in democracy and freedom of speech.
Social media has gone beyond social phenomena and has becomes too powerful to influence on us, and eventually reshaping our history, social and political implication. With this view in mind, let look what really happened during US election; especially the piece of information debunking on Russian-Link Ads; it really shaking the way we see false news and how social media influence and running politics in general. A cursory glance showing the splashing of hoaxes, fake news and misinformation from Russian-experimentations of using social network as a propaganda engines was having a cascading effect on decision making and perhaps changing the election result in the United States (Confessore). Many people were outcry, rages, and not happy about the election result including me. The New York Times’s journalist, Shane & Isaac, also emphasized how social media biased when using algorithm to spread the news “On twitter, as on Facebook, Russian fingerprints are on hundreds or thousands of fake accounts that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages.” This evidence illustrates that automatic messages and political campaign-linked ads which forcedly appeared before and after the election were done intentionally to confuse people about event and what happening around them.
In addition to, in fact, the false news stories’ favoring Trump were shared 30 million times on Facebook, while those favoring Clinton were shared only 8 million times in total on Facebook (Allcott & Gentzkow). Even worse-off, the websites and shows such as Fox News, late night shows and memes which contents mainly related to political satire are viewed as problematic and biased (Shane & Isaac). Hence, it surprising me how such a deception and political conspiracy can overdrive and tricked people, and even turning the political-wheel to an entirely different direction. As a research shown, there only 14% of people who said claims to used social media as a main source, but the impact is unmeasurable. That’s why we have to be caution about political advertising on social media and its agenda, because even small percentages of information, but it actually has a great effects on how we think and making decision.
Likewise, fake news is also a serious problem in term of political agenda in Cambodia. The circulating of media manipulation in Cambodia are often views as pro-government and propaganda supremacy. Normally, the leaders would use fake news or make up stories to deceived people or take away their attention from what is really matter to something else. As recently, the 30 years- ruling government using fake news to attack the opposition leader, shut down all the independent media and radios, and became a single party in the country (Cambodia Daily & The Nation, 2017). For example, after shutdown of independent media and jailed opposition leaders, journalists, and human right activists, the pro-government media will put tons of gossips, and achievements that government have done in the past in TV and media. Then the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, would say “Fresh News” is the best news company in Cambodia, while cursing independent media such as The Cambodia Daily, Free Asia Radio, and Voice of America as fakes and foreigner’s lackey. Personally, I dissent to his statement and it sound really preposterous to me, because Fresh News in Cambodia is not different from Fox News in the United States.
Another unthinkable and reckless behavior is when president Trump speaking in his inauguration that media organizations such as CNN and News York Times are the source of “fake News”, therefore the Fox news is the one that trustworthy. So my first reaction was like, I could not see what is fake about journalists from CNN, News York Times or Cambodia Daily, Free Asia who risking their lives every day to find the truth. Given the fact, there is no democracy without journalists or freedom of expression. So through this lesson learn, I can summarize that fake news are dangerous, and even hazard if people are not media literate, not pay close attention to the effect of fake news, and most importantly not change the way they use social media as the most important source to make a decision. As a quote from former President, Barack Obama, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, you have to have the best information possible to make the best decision possible”. Thus, based on this quote, how can we make a better decision if all the news are fake? We have no choice but to believe it, just like Adichie said, “Shows a people as one thing, only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” The quote says it all, when fake news are everywhere, we intend to make wrong and regret decision. Ironically, when fake news are more powerful to defeat democracy, it hard to get it back because we have built year and year and its can be destroyed just a blink. We don’t want to let our leader do what they want, we need to get back out voice and do the right thing.
In retrospect, social media provide us a whole new level of freedom of speech and information. It gives voices to voiceless people, built a bridge for communication between leader and public, everyone can talk and freely share their opinions, which makes a huge impacts to the decision makers. We not only have gain the access to many key things related to politics but also other important social events that only we never experienced in the past. Meanwhile social media gives us a freedom of speech, but it also invade our privacy and identity since everyone can publish without a fact-checking. Although, Google and Facebook claims to battle fake news, the positive scale of their efforts is remains small since these two major tech companies are money-making enterprises.
In conclusion, fake news are real and dangerous to our democracy and freedom of speech. The absolute power of social media roles in politics and our everyday lives are so much out of control. Undoubtedly, the misused of mass communication and social network can really segregated and bubbled us from the world, even the way we think and our emotional performance. I used to think that how can people are so dump to believe in fake news, but then I learned that it is hard to differentiate between fake news especially when they look like a real one. So we cannot blame people and media itself, but it is a great lesson learn for everyone not to believe at anything we seen and heard on social media. Furthermore, to combat fake news is not someone responsibility, but it start from everyone. We should put more effort and warned to be extra vigilant when it comes to trust social media as a main source of information.
Adichie, Chimamanda. “The danger of the Single Story.” Ted Talk, 2009, retrieved from:
Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017, June 3). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from http://www.nber.org: http://www.nber.org/papers/w23089
Cain, G. (2017, November 21). Fake News and the Death of Democracy in Cambodia. Retrieved December 21, 2017, from http://www.thenation.com: https://www.thenation.com/article/fake-news-and-the-death-of-democracy-in-cambodia/
Confessore, N. (2017, October 9). How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/09/technology/russia-election-facebook-ads-rage.html
Obama, B. (2017, January 10). President Obama’s Farewell Address: Full Video and Text. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/10/us/politics/obama-farewell-address-speech.html
Shane, S., & Isaac, M. (2017, September 7). The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/us/politics/russia-facebook-twitter-election.html
Titcomb, J., & Carson, J. (2017, November 14). Fake news: What exactly is it – and can it really swing an election? Retrieved December 4, 2017, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/fake-news-exactly-has-really-had-influence/
My Final paper of the year, SJMC (University of Minnesota) © 2017 Love Soun