Social Media, Mobilization, and "Fake News"

Date: 
June 9, 2017

Social media platforms have the capacity to connect people and facilitate organizing, but with the decline in in influence of traditional media outlets, they have also made it possible to spread disinformation to millions in a matter of seconds. The phenomenon of so-called “fake news” is not without real consequences: In November, a man showed up at a popular pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. armed with an automatic weapon because he had read online that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring on the site. As a result, some have proposed regulating fake news as we do other fraudulent products that may harm consumers. At a time when a robust press will matter perhaps more than ever to the health of our democracy, what, if anything, should be done about fake news? Who defines what news is “fake” and what should be the standards? How should we understand First Amendment rights in this context? How can the perils of social media be addressed without compromising its tremendous promise? And how should we respond to the claims by President Trump that critical stories about his administration carried by the mainstream media constitute fake news?