Where did all the talk about “Fake News” come from?

Fake News, consisting of propaganda based on disinformation or hoaxes, have been around for a long time, since the Antiquity and Egyptians. There have been hoaxes spread by people or even governments all the time, including very important historical events like the French Revolution of 1789, when the french term for fake news at the time “canard” helped lead to queen Marie Antoinette decapitation. The pharaoh Rameses the Great also spread lies and propaganda depicting a tied battle as a stunning victory in the 13th century BC.

Then with the rise of newspapers fake news spread even more, especially during the twentieth century in the First World War, both the press and cinema were used as weapons of propaganda based on lies to help boost morale and win the war.

While this term has been around for a long time, since 2016 it has gained prominence. This is due to the presidential election in the United States, where more truly fake news were spread than ever. Some candidates, like the eventual winner Donald Trump, said and spread so many lies, hoaxes and misinformation that fact-checkers could barely keep up. The naivety of many voters also made them think the United States was in a worse state economically, criminally and socially than it was, and that Hillary Clinton was very corrupt and perhaps even involved in violent crimes and terror when she most likely never was. Social media helped spread the rise of fake news, where sensationalist posts, images and memes were spread millions of times, especially by older, more conservative voters.

However, to be fair there also fake news against Trump, for example a viral captioned image in where he supposedly said in a People Magazine interview that Republicans were the dumbest group of voters and therefore it would be easier to be nominated there. Trump also called and still calls most negative coverage of him “Fake News” even if they normally aren’t because he strongly dislikes the bias and hatred that most mainstream media publication in the United States have against him. He also called them the dishonest media and the lying press, insulting reporters, but even if he’d like a more positive bent and spin on his and his administration’s actions, he can barely do a thing about it since the media is protected by free speech clauses in the national constitution. Trump has even admitted he calls fake news merely negative, perhaps a little biased, news. This is one of the oldest dictators and strong man tricks, to call out the “Lying Press”.

So there are two main types of fake news, those are factually false, and fact-checker work hard to fight them, like Politifact and Snopes in the US, and Polígrafo in Portugal, and there are fake news which are negative news articles or opinion pieces about you, perhaps presented in a biased, pessimistic manner, and sometimes including predictions that will turn out wrong (like that Trump would cause a big economic recession). Always check carefully your news’ sources and always be sceptical and careful not just with straight-out lies, but also misrepresentation and bias.

Sources:

https://www.politifact.com/facebook-fact-checks/statements/2018/dec/18/blog-posting/no-
donald-trump-did-not-call-republican-voters-dum/

Weir, William (2009). History’s Greatest Lies. Beverly, Massachusetts: Fair Winds Press. pp. 28–41.
ISBN 978-1-59233-336-3.

Traqueia, Filipa, (2019, March 19). “Fake News”: Uma história tão antiga como a própria História.
Retrieved from https://poligrafo.sapo.pt/sociedade/artigos/fake-news-uma-historia-tao-antiga-
como-a-propria-historia

Charlton, Emma, (2019, March 6 ) “Fake news: What it is, and how to spot it” Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/fake-news-what-it-is-and-how-to-spot-it/

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