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“Fake news” will not be only a buzzword. Beyond conspicuously ridiculous conspiracy theories and sensationalist headlines, fake news threatens the very foundations of our information ecosystem. The damage is real indeed: reputations are tarnished, businesses suffer devastating losses, and the road between truth and lie is blurred.
But how can we even start solving the fake news problem? In the U.S., where legal constraints prevent false information from being faraway from the web, it looks like damage control and public calls for stricter regulations are society’s best shots at tackling the problem.
The illusion of credibility
The most troubling aspect of faux news is its uncanny ability to mix with real news content. False stories often mimic the format and kind of reputable news outlets. Do you remember the story about Pope Francis allegedly endorsing Trump as a candidate for the presidency? While the piece originated on a satirical website, it spiraled uncontrolled too quickly.
When it involves social media, the lines between truth and falsehood blur further. Anonymous blogs and vague communities are a fertile breeding ground for fake news. From QAnon conspiracies to unfounded health claims, misinformation finds refuge within the shadowy recesses of the web, threatening to go viral.
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Fake news is commonly related to dirty political games, but not only politicians are thrown under the bus of misinformation. Fake news has develop into a weapon of business competition where rivals use fabricated stories to sabotage competitors and take their spot under the sun. In most cases, nonetheless, it’s simply unimaginable to know who began a fake story – was it a rival or a random web user?
Once the news is out, it doesn’t matter anyway. From the false rumors about Lululemon’s see-through yoga pants causing stock troubles to the outrageous Pizzagate scandal that led to gun violence, fake news has shown it may possibly cause real harm to each businesses and folks.
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The legal hiccup
Addressing fake news inside a legal framework is a challenge of its own. The First Amendment protects the liberty of speech and expression within the United States, and that covers the best to disseminate false or controversial information. Outlawing fake news could tread dangerously near censorship and lift concerns about infringing on this fundamental right.
On top of that, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides immunity to web platforms reminiscent of Google, Facebook and Twitter. In other words, these digital giants are protected against being treated as publishers of the data users provide, safeguarding them from lawsuits. This unique legal landscape within the U.S. allows social media and engines like google to essentially ignore their role in spreading fake news and avoid legal repercussions.
What does it mean for people and businesses which have suffered from fake news? In short – you haven’t got many strings to tug. Often, fake stories come from anonymous sources, meaning there is not any one to file a defamation lawsuit against. When a defamatory post or article lacks clear authorship, pursuing legal motion resembles chasing a ghost. In such cases, the targets of misinformation may attempt to sue the platform or outlet for negligence. However, these lawsuits can drag on for years, draining each the victim’s energy and pockets. All the while, reputations proceed to erode, and businesses suffer.
In the context of today’s cancel culture era, when people quickly turn against controversial brands and figures, fake news can seriously damage an individual’s or an organization’s popularity. Once your image is stained, it’s tough to bounce back, and it takes loads of effort to get well from it.
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PR within the fight against fake news
Against the background of the legal hiccup with fake news, P.R. might be the one asset businesses and public figures have at their disposal. P.R. experts help the misinformation victims craft well-thought-out response strategies to tackle fake news head-on. A superb damage control P.R. campaign addresses misinformation with facts, data and transparency. It’s not nearly mitigating the backlash – P.R. efforts construct credibility over time, fostering trust amongst a brand’s customers and audiences.
P.R. also turns out to be useful when cultivating strong, enduring relationships with stakeholders. These relationships function a shield against the corrosive effects of faux news. By maintaining open lines of communication with industry leaders, experts and influencers, a brand can quickly and organically rally support and credibility within the face of faux news, ensuring that trusted voices can vouch for the accuracy and integrity of their messaging.
While PR doesn’t make people and firms bulletproof against misinformation and pretend narratives, it equips them with the tools and techniques to effectively combat and mitigate the damage brought on by this phenomenon.
Related: How to Avoid the Danger Fake News Could Pose to Your Brand
The call for stricter regulation
Needless to say, legal adjustments to the present digital media reality must be made and made quickly. It is important to guard freedom of speech and expression, but a balance should be struck to forestall the unchecked dissemination of faux news. Stricter regulations could compel social media platforms and engines like google to take a more proactive role in curbing the spread of false narratives.
How can we do it without compromising the basic principles of free speech? This is the query higher addressed to the legal minds. In the meantime, we must remain vigilant and proactive, promoting media literacy, fact-checking and responsible online behavior as a part of our collective effort to combat the scourge of misinformation.