NEW YORK CITY, NY – “How to: Prevent a Zombie Uprising!” screams a pro-Trump ad with a picture of Joe Biden’s head photoshopped to be green with a zombie emoji, scared face emoji, and ghost emoji. This is the first thing on my YouTube feed. It’s completely different from the ads I am supposed to be getting, as I don’t follow politics on YouTube, but I don’t think anything of it because I had often gotten these ads before. When one actually pays attention to these ads, one realizes how totally bizarre they are, with bright colors and lots of emojis surrounding unflattering pictures of politicians. These ads spread fake news, a term made popular by Donald Trump to delegitimize the press, and propaganda, making one politician look better than another through unsupported, biased “facts.”
In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump referred to traditionally respected major news institutions like The New York Times as “fake news” to cause people to lose faith in the press. This was used as a propaganda tool to allow for negative stories about himself to not harm his campaign or his image. Increasingly negative articles on Trump have only increased his supporters’ distrust of the press. According to The Atlantic, this term came as a reaction to Russian propaganda on social media sites like Facebook that were meant to either help or harm a candidate, or just cause confusion. Trump himself has made statements of questionable verity. According to The Washington Post, Trump “made 1,628 false or misleading claims over 298 days,” or about 5.5 claims per day. One of these claims is that the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is “essentially dead,” which is untrue.
Fake news is extremely powerful, especially when exposed to people who don’t know how to gauge the authenticity and credibility of an article or statement. According to a study by Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, Sinan Aral, false news spreads faster than true news. This shows how people accept and are affected by false news faster than true news. Trump’s statements on how the press is the “enemy of the people” made people distrust sources that were inherently more reliable than other news sources like Twitter or other social media sites. Some believe that Trump’s presidential victory would not have been possible without fake news. A study from Ohio State University found that about 4% of President Barack Obama’s supporters in the 2012 election voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election because of belief in fake news about Hilary Clinton. A study by Andrew M. Guess, Brendan Nyhan, and Jason Reifler of Princeton University found that 2.6% of articles for the 2016 presidential campaign were false.
This just shows how much many people were affected, and most likely will be affected in the future, by false news. Hopefully, people are more aware of the manner and spread of fake news and will take measures to protect themselves from it in the future, such as not believing everything one hears on the internet or from a celebrity or politician, only using reliable sources for news, and being able to spot bias in articles. By keeping ourselves correctly informed, we can and the people we put in charge can make better, more effective decisions that help our country grow and prosper.