TikTok, Fake News and Obstacles to the Ballot Box

“Fake news is not new. It’s the scale that’s unprecedented,” Mr. Martin said. “Lies have been told for thousands of years, but I don’t think they’ve ever been as sophisticated or as believable or as easy to spread.”

These days, as soon as a piece of false information appears online, “you need to debunk it within 30 minutes before it has traction,” he said. Otherwise, it spreads through algorithms and “an unquestioning audience that seem to be happy to be trapped in their own echo chambers.”

To pave the way for a better future, schools have a duty to “teach the pitfalls and benefits of social media” and “restore trust in a free press,” he added.

The Ukrainian journalist Anna Romandash, who has been reporting on war crimes and human rights violations in her homeland since the Russian invasion in February, said Russia had taken the information wars one step further.

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Whereas before there were two realities — fake news, versus verified facts reported by a legacy media organization — there was now “a lot of state-sponsored propaganda, for example from Russia, that doesn’t necessarily aim to create fake news, but aims to discredit truth,” she said.

As a result, in Russia today, “there is no such thing as objective truth. There are many different versions of different stories,” she added. That made social media a “big danger,” because some people, especially those “who may not have strong digital literacy skills,” could not tell truths from untruths.

The term ‘fake news,’ of course, was never more in use than during the presidency of Donald Trump. Mr. Trump accused mainstream news organizations of spreading disinformation. News organizations, meanwhile, documented instances in which the president communicated falsehoods. Even with Mr. Trump gone, journalism is still being challenged in the U.S. today.

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