Broadly speaking, the themes used in Facebook are similar to those found elsewhere. There are some differences, however, because of the difference in the host platform. Because Facebook’s algorithm is driven by engagement, articles with high numbers of likes and shares are more likely to appear in news feeds. As a result, articles are even more likely to be designed to be liked and shared based on headlines and photos, as seen below: Figure 67. Typical Facebook post of End the Fed The above screenshot is from the Facebook profile of End the Fed, a website identified as a purveyor of fake news 11 . Note how the headline and photo is designed quickly engage readers of a particular ideological orientation, but doesn’t reveal the entire story. It still serves as a hook for the article itself. In addition to this, fake news on Facebook are more likely to feature consistent branding. On this particular Facebook page, the links generally go to the same domain (washingtonfeed.com), and the name of the site was also prominently displayed on the posts.
51 | The Fake News Machine: How Propagandists Abuse the Internet and Manipulate the Public Other Social Media Platforms As we noted earlier, social media platforms in China are similarly used for misinformation. However, the principles are still the same: grab attention and conform to the norms of the social media platform. The following examples are all from August 2016, when false reports indicated that an insurance fund would be delisted from the Shanghai stock exchange: Figure 68. Weibo post containing news about insurance fund being delisted Figure 69. Post in Guba stock forum regarding the delisting of insurance fund
52 | The Fake News Machine: How Propagandists Abuse the Internet and Manipulate the Public The Motivations Behind Fake News We have covered how fake news and propaganda can be created, but the ultimate question is: what is it for? Is it done to advance political agendas or business interests? Is it to drive traffic to traffic farms? The answer, to some degree, is yes to all of the above. Various factors come into play, but there is no single answer for why fake news is created and spread. Political Motivations Based on recent events, the most obvious motivation behind fake news is politics, but in some cases, it’s too obvious. While many articles categorized as fake news involve political stories, it does not mean the objective is political. The real goal might be completely apolitical altogether. However, when there is an unceasing flow of fake news with a uniform agenda, then one cannot rule out the possibility of political motives. Political propaganda is designed to get people to change their mind about their political beliefs or some other opinion. Consider how we form our own opinions in the first place: Event Perception (perceived image) Interpretation (word, audio, visual description) Event Perception (perceived image) Interpretation (word, audio, visual description) Figure 70. Ideal opinion formation process
53 | The Fake News Machine: How Propagandists Abuse the Internet and Manipulate the Public
- Spring '12
- fake news, Fake News Machine