Fake news is an understatement. And it needs a cure. I’ve got that cure for you.
Here’s how fake news works. Competing media outlets know that to sell ad space for their content, they need to have something that will attract attention or go viral. The incentive then is on the extreme. An objective and fact-based news item isn’t going to go over as well as clickbait jam-packed with hysterics questioning Trump’s sanity, asserting evidence of Russian collusion, or otherwise gerrymandering data to make a deliberately uninformed point.
To be fair, the First Amendment allows anyone – whether CNN or some fat dude living in granny’s basement – to concoct whatever lunacy they want. That’s why CNN went for the bong on New Year’s and it’s that fat dude living in granny’s basement that is actually more likely to report factual news than CNN.
So what could be done to preserve sanctity of the First Amendment while protecting the media’s status as the “fourth estate” as they like to call themselves?
How about a requirement that in the event of a correction or retraction to on-line content those media outlets be required to: a) email every subscriber an explanation and an apology and b) that social media sites be configured to broadcast that explanation and apology not only from the media outlet’s account, but from all account subscriber accounts associated with that media outlet.
How would that look in the real world?
Let’s go pre-Trump shall we? Remember when NBC doctored 911 calls during George Zimmerman-Treyvon Martin. That was purely fake news. It was designed to portray Zimmerman as a white Hispanic and thus to stoke racial tensions as though there is any value in turning American neighborhoods into the racial equivalent of cock-fighting rings. (Using that analogy, if we are all in the ring who is watching us? Just a thought).
NBC got caught. Someone somewhere heard the doctored 911 tapes and produced the real factual tapes. Under my proposal what would NBC then have been required to do? Everyone subscribed to NBC via email would receive an explanation and apology. Everyone on social media that has NBC attached as a “friend” or in “following” status, would receive an explanation and apology and that explanation and apology would also go out to all their friends and followers.
Imagine this level of accountability.
Imagine if CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, MSNBC, et al, knew that their every correction and retraction would result in an immediate and overwhelming admission of their failure and that the admission would be most acutely experienced by their biggest fans.
Image: Excerpted from: CC0 Creative Commons; https://pixabay.com/en/fake-fake-news-media-laptop-1909821/