Social Media Project – The Power of Fake News

Introduction.

            It’s the middle of 2020 and you find yourself scrolling through Facebook. You see ads from amazon, updates of the upcoming election, riots in new cities, reports of racism in corporations, hospitalization rates increasing, political memes, rumors of another lockdown, the President tweeting about who wronged him, the list goes on and on. Media is filled with information, each story trying to drown out the sound of the other, making it increasingly difficult to keep your head above the water. Who are you supposed to trust? Who can you trust? In this historic year of 2020, it is more critical than any year before to be able to discern what is true. This bombardment of information causes the truth to be lost. Therefore, it is vital to find a way to label fake news; whether it be filtering done by organizations, requiring articles to be labeled as fact or opinion, or better teaching citizens to recognize deceit in the media.

            Deliberate misinformation, also known as fake news, continues to run rampant in society today. With over a billion users, platforms such as Facebook and Instagram spread information across the globe in one simple click. Other platforms like Twitter and Tiktok continue to increase the spread with each platform having over 300 million users. Though these platforms are often used to spread trends, share viral videos, and post memes, they also have a deep impact in the way society functions. People rely on these platforms not only for entertainment, but for news. Ann Musgrove reports on a survey done by Pew Research Center that “62% of American adults get their news from social networking sights” (Musgrove, Powers, Rebar, & Musgrove, 2018). However, as more users read the titles and short summaries rather than reading the article in its entirety fake news and clickbait are more easily spread (Choi, 2020). This can quickly cause contention among citizens as they begin to believe false information to be true.

            This article will discuss what “fake news” is, diverse ways it’s affecting society and what preventative measures can be taken to stop the polarization and negative impacts on nations today. 

Literature Review.

            Researchers and scholars have much to say about the impact of fake news on social media. Many discussions about the adverse effects on politics, companies, and the impacts it has on different generations. There has been much said about the definition of fake news, though differing in some ways, in the end the effect is the same. Even with increased talk about each of these topics and more, there is little about the prevention and stopping of fake news. Many resources discuss preventive measures that can be taken, but no one has found a clear answer. However, throughout each of these sources it is found that fake news is having an impact and will continue to have more power unless something changes.

            Fake news is defined by some to being misleading news created by “fabricated information” (Lazer et al., 2018). Others have explained it to be false information that the source “unprecedented misinformation” (Choi, 2020). Professors from the Pennsylvania State University explain fake news as “a type of false information to deliberately mislead or manipulate public opinion” (Cui, Wang, & Lee, 2019). It is clear to see that there is a negative effect on those who see it and believe it. Peter Adams, a vice president from News Literacy Project, states “We are hardwired to notice patterns, and if we see a false claim repeated over and over again, it starts to feel true even if it’s not” (Choi, 2020). That is the power of fake news, as it gets distributed even when people know or can sense that information could be false or deceptive. No generation is immune to this.

            Journalist Matthew Choi from Politico explains that Gen Z are the most prone to being aware of fake news, most can recognize false or misleading information. Yet they are not invulnerable, and like many others, fall susceptive to misinformation often from peers. Choi shares a recent story of just how fast misinformation can spread. Amid the 2020 election, a young woman went out to check her mail. Upon pulling it out she found that her mail-in ballot was a Trump pamphlet. She was furious and stated in a video on TikTok, “I almost threw it away because this is what is looks like.” Platforms began claiming that the government is so corrupt that an absentee ballot is now an advertisement, “Trump is a dictator,” and even a statement that, “fair and free elections are out the window”. However, when fact checkers investigated this story, they found that what she had received was not from the government, but a voter registration form sent from a political party that happened to arrive the same time as her ballot. When the woman realized what it was, she tried to stop it. She had success with most platforms that shared it, but the impact of her video had a great effect on many people and their opinions of politics (Choi, 2020).

With stories like the one above, it is easy to see how misinformation can quickly turn into the culminating of fake news. In spite of that, fake news often is intentional. This can be found in politics as many politicians use it as a tactic to shame their opponent. There is data that shows, “115 pro-Trump fake stories that were shared on Facebook a total of 30 million times, and 41 pro-Clinton fake stories shared a total of 7.6 million times” during the 2016 election (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017). Political fake news spread by media continues to spread from sources not directly tied to the government party. During the 2016 election an article hit headlines about the Pope endorsing Trump (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017). This took off in the media, and many believed it to be true.

Fake news can have an impact on more than just politics, it directly effects brands and companies that get attacked by people spreading false information about them. This can quickly lead to loss in money and business for a company. For example, a fake news article was spread about the shoe brand New Balance. This false source misquoted one of the New Balance CEOs and stated, New Balance offers a wholesale endorsement of the Trump revolution”. This launched the trend of throwing away or burning the shoes by the leftist community. These quickly became known as the “official shoes of white people” (Obada, 2019). This one false story left New Balance the difficulty of clearing their name. The impact of fake news on companies is immense and can change a consumer’s view of that company. When consumers no longer want a companies’ products, that company is going to take a hit.

There have been studies about college students and their levels of trust in the media. It was found that most college age students don’t go to media for their news and are skeptical on what they read unless it is from an account that they trust. It was found that most students would try and compare the information they were reading to other sources to find if there were parallels. However, when they were asked where they learned these skills a common response was, “they didn’t learn it at school, just by themselves” (Eger et al., 2020). It is interesting to note, though fake news has a vast impact on society, learning how to recognize it is not required in school curriculum.

            Scholars have continued to talk about different ways to increase critical thinking that will help users be able to notice when things are true or not. One of the ways is done by following the “CRAP Method.” The acronym stands for currency, reliability, authority, and purpose or point of view (Camacho, 2020). This abbreviation is a simple way to remind users what to look for when determining if it is a trustworthy source. As a user checks for things such as date, who the author is and the reason the article was written they will more successfully be able to recognize false information.   

            Other scholars are discussing the possibility of more organizations that come together to determine if a source is reliable. There are existing groups such as PolitiFact, a volunteer organization that determines the truth of many political statements and articles. PolitiFact takes opinions into consideration and labels articles as “true”, “mostly true”, “false”, “mostly false”. Research continues to find information that when articles are labeled “rated false” consumers are less prone to believe the article (Clayton et al., 2019).

Method.

            This information was found through using EBSCO data base searcher and Google Scholar. After searching statements such as: “fake news and social media”, “the impact of fake news” I sifted through the results to find peer reviewed journals for this information. I researched sources such as Politico, a political website that reviews political articles. I examined the different views of PolitiFact to find out if they were truly unbiased. I continued to look for fake news on my social media pages to find examples and to test recommended methods.

Conclusion.

            It is simple to see that fake news continues to reach billions across the globe impacting politics, businesses, and relationships. It’s not something that is going to go away. Consequently, it is not something that society should except as being normal. This is something that can be changed and diminished as certain structures are formed.  Through carefully analyzing reports and studies from researchers, strides of improvement can be made. Creating more organizations, such as PolitiFact can help verify sources. These will be increasingly important as misinformation can be spread. Similarly, in reference to the story of the mail in ballot, a company was able to catch the misunderstanding and quickly solve the problem. When there are more organizations to watch, fake news can be caught quicker and the spread of it will decrease. These types of organizations could be included in social media platform teams. Think of the impact that could be made if major social platforms had specific teams watching for fake media daily.

Another improvement that can be made is educating the population with knowledge of how to recognize false information. Making it simpler for viewers to verify sources by labeling articles at the top of pages can decrease the spread of fake news. These labels will let people know that the piece is an opinion, factual, or biased. Power needs to be given back to the people, not in the sense of their first amendment rights, but that they are free to understand and decipher the information that surrounds them. “For the marketplace to operate effectively, people must have a meaningful opportunity to discern what is true and false” (Walters, 2018). Ignorance is not bliss; ignorance prevents people from being able to see the whole picture. Recognizing fake media is essential for the wellbeing of politics, businesses, and society as a whole.

References

Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211-236. doi:10.1257/jep.31.2.211

Aswad, E. (2019). IN A WORLD OF “FAKE NEWS,” WHAT’S A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM TO DO? Utah Law Review. Retrieved 2020.

Camacho, L. (2020, December 3). MCOM 320: Finding Articles. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://guides.lib.byu.edu/c.php?g=216367

Choi, M. (2020, October 12). When Gen Z is the source of the misinformation it consumes. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/11/gen-z-misinformation-politics-news-conspiracy-423913

Clayton, K., Blair, S., Busam, J. A., Forstner, S., Glance, J., Green, G., . . . Nyhan, B. (2019). Real Solutions for Fake News? Measuring the Effectiveness of General Warnings and Fact-Check Tags in Reducing Belief in False Stories on Social Media. Political Behavior, 42(4), 1073-1095. doi:10.1007/s11109-019-09533-0

Cui, L., Wang, S., & Lee, D. (2019). SAME: Sentiment-Aware Multi-Modal Embedding for Detecting Fake News. International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining. Retrieved 2020, from https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.1145/3341161.3342894

Eger, L., Egerova, D., Micik, M., Varga, E., Czegledi, C., Tomczyk, L., & Sladkayova, M. (2020). Trust Building and Fake News on Social Media from the Perspective of the University Students from Four Visegrad Countries. Communication Today, 11(1), 73-85. Retrieved December 9, 2020, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&sid=4e0ac367-c092-4f20-89ab-af59ab1795c0%40sdc-v-sessmgr01

Lazer, D. J., Baum, M. A., Benkler, Y., Berinsky, A. J., Greenhill, K. M., & Menczer, F. (2018). The Science of Fake News. Science, 359(6380), 1094-1096. Retrieved 2020, from https://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1094.full

Musgrove, A. T., Powers, J. R., Rebar, L. C., & Musgrove, G. J. (2018). Real or fake? Resources for teaching college students how to identify fake news. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 25(3), 243-260. doi:10.1080/10691316.2018.1480444

Obada, D. (n.d.). Sharing Fake News about Brands on Social Media: A New Conceptual Model Based on Flow Theory1. Journal of the Seminar of Discursive Logic, Argumentation Theory and Rhetoric, 144-166. Retrieved 2020, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=4acc7c81-7ae2-443c-8847-76c52e07ea7b%40sessionmgr4008

Walters, R. M. (2018). HOW TO TELL A FAKE: FIGHTING BACK AGAINST FAKE NEWS ON THE FRONT LINES OF SOCIAL MEDIA. Texas Review of Law and Politics, 23(1), 112-177. Retrieved 2020, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=5a36a738-b269-46f0-bdd3-3e99ad06b550%40sessionmgr4007

Platform Presentation

Bleacher Report: A Sport Phenomenon

Erin Larsen and Mark Sherman

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people that little else has” (Carlin). Bleacher Report (B/R) is a unique social media application that connects society with sports. With over three million regular users, B/R is making strides in the sports information industry at a steady pace. B/R can credit its unique history and cultural impact to its success.

Bleacher Report was created by four aspiring sports journalists: Bryan Goldberg, Dave Finicchio, Dave Nemtez, and Alexander Fruend. The collective goal of each founder was to capitalize on fans’ passion and involvement in sport (Perell, 2020). They wanted to create a space where fans could come together and celebrate. As a result, Bleacher Report was created. The four friends founded B/R in 2007 and began to see continuous momentum. In 2012, B/R was bought by Turner Sports for $175 million. By that point, Bryan Goldberg, Dave Nemtez, and Alexander Fruend had left the company, leaving Dave Finocchio as CEO. He stepped down from his position in 2019, leaving Howard Mittman as the new CEO (Ourand & Wednesday, 2019).

B/R are masters at search engine optimization (SEO) and have taken advantage of internet promotion. However, in recent years, gamification formed to be a controversial issue within the company. Instead of raises and promotions journalists would earn “points” and “status” as their article received more views and interactions. This led to culture concerns with journalists. Many journalists felt cheated for not being promoted with a larger salary. This left a negative view and stigma of Bleacher Report (Ferrer-Conill, 2017). Nonetheless, B/R has strived to build a successful business and improve many difficult issues through new management (Strauss, 2020; Peterson, 2020).

Bleacher Report has had a large cultural impact, specifically within sports media. Bleacher Report has directed their efforts and content to social media, marketing to the many sports fans throughout the world, and inspiring fitness and sport activity. B/R has created a hub where fans can share and create content for their teams. Twitter is directly connected to Bleacher Report, and users can get instant updates of their players and teams. During games, fans are able to use the application to participate in live conversations about games, players, and share opinions. This facilitates conversation and returning users. Although this can often lead to controversial comments and arguments as opinions are high-strung, such comments facilitate engagement and consistent interactions. With a massive fan base to sell content to, B/R is able to create a remarkable energy throughout society by bringing the news to every sports fan. As a result, fitness and sport become more valued and common in our society. B/R has taken great advantage of a large cultural movement.

Bleacher Report has created a renewed energy for sports in the media. In fact the company states, “we capture and unleash the untapped power to deliver visceral, authentic moments at the intersection of sports and culture” (Sports). Although competitors such as ESPN have more followers, Bleacher Report has created a social phenomenon (Dupree, 2018). The users of Bleacher Report are excited to participate and let their opinions be heard. B/R has inspired many globally to be involved in sports, whether it’s playing the game, wearing a team jersey, or cheering on teams during live events. Bleacher Report has unified societies throughout the world to inspire and connect to sports far better than any other platform.  The genius idea that will cause this platform to continue to expand, is that it’s organic, viral, and users themselves collectively create the synergy that powers Bleacher Report. No one person or team of individuals can compete with the ideas and energy of thousands of users.  Bleacher Report will continue to score big in the world of sports because its appeal transcends culture and geography.

References

Carlin, J. (n.d.). A quote from Playing the Enemy. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/233784-sport-has-the-power-to-change-the-world-it-has

Dupree, C. (2018, July 3). Times Are Changing: How Bleacher Report Has Turned the Social Media Platform of Sports Upside Down. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.samford.edu/sports-analytics/fans/2018/Times-Are-Changing-How-Bleacher-Report-Has-Turned-the-Social-Media-Platform-of-Sports-Upside-Down

F. (2018). Most Innovative Companies Bleacher Report. Retrieved November, 2020, from https://www.fastcompany.com/company/bleacher-report

Ferrer-Conill, R. (2017). Quantifying Journalism? A Study on the Use of Data and Gamification to Motivate Journalists. Television & New Media, 18(8), 706-720. doi:10.1177/1527476417697271

Lenz, L. (2019, June 19). The normalization of Bryan Goldberg. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.cjr.org/the_profile/bryan-goldberg-bustle.php

Ourand, J., & Wednesday, F. (2019, February 20). Bleacher Report CEO Dave Finocchio Set To Step Down. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/SB-Blogs/Breaking-News/2019/02/Bleacher-Report.aspx

Perell, D. (2020, October 19). Dave Nemetz: Founding Bleacher Report. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.perell.com/podcast/david-nemetz-founding-bleacher-report

Peterson, T. (2020, September 21). ‘The needle is starting to move’: Inside Turner Sports’ plan to fix Bleacher Report’s diversity and inclusion problem. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://digiday.com/media/the-needle-is-starting-to-move-inside-turner-sports-plan-to-fix-bleacher-reports-diversity-and-inclusion-problem/

Sports, T. (n.d.). Who We Are. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.bleacherreport.com/pages/about

Strauss, B. (2020, June 24). Bleacher Report parts ways with CEO after being pressed by staff about diversity. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/06/24/bleacher-report-ceo-resigns-after-being-pressed-by-staff-about-diversity/

Resume

Erin Larsen

larsen.erin.m@gmail.com

Experience

August 2020-December 2020 BYU On Campus Internship, Salt Lake Bride
– Sponsor Liaison: contacted sponsor via email at least once weekly
– Team Leader: lead team meetings and presentations, helped team members finish tasks
– 400+ hours of work over a 14 week period
– Social media marketing: posting, interacting with followers, writing 3 blogs per week
– Giveaway with reach of 600 new accounts


September 2019 – March 2020 Neurofeedback Technician & Receptionist, Aspen Valley Counseling
– Scheduled appointments, filed paperwork, took payments
– Assisted patients overcome mental health issues as a Neurofeedback technician  


November 2019 Vivint smart home case competition
– Won first place
– Found solutions to help Vivint grow as a business
– Presented our findings to a panel of judges from Vivint
– Led the group in the presentation of our ideas and findings

May 2019 – August 2019 produce clerk, Lee’s Marketplace
– Organized, stocked, and maintained the produce section
– Excelled in customer service
– Strived to provide every customer with a positive experience
– Acted as a self-managing team leader    


October 2017 – April 2019 full time missionary, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints
– Acted in a position of leadership over groups of 10+ other volunteers
– Set goals and led training meetings for volunteers
– Emphasized the importance of communication between volunteers

Education

2016 – present
Pre-Communications, Brigham Young University
GPA: 3.56
Applying to the Communications after the Fall 2020 semester
Relevant skills learned: Excel, design, writing, social media marketing

Skills

– Goal oriented, self-driven, punctual, organized
– Detail-oriented
– Public speaking and presenting
– Reliable member of a team
– Careful listener
– Respectful of others

Blog #5

Word of Mouth Communication

Word of mouth is when people share information about products or services to others. This can have a positive or negative effect on businesses. With some of the biggest sales of the season happening this past week, many people have been looking at products and sifting through reviews. Those with the most reviews, whether good or bad, have the biggest impact. It’s crazy to know how much we trust complete strangers across the world to give us good information on products. However, it can be even more comforting when you hear someone you trust talking about a product.

I have had the opportunity to do an on-campus internship through BYU to help a company build their social media. One way to build awareness is to do giveaways. My group and I had two giveaways to do during the semester but decided to keep them until closer to the holiday season. We posted the first giveaway, left it up for 72 hours, and only ONE PERSON participated. It was a total flop. We came back as a group and discussed what we could do better. We realized we should extend the length of the giveaway, make sure to post about it every day, and make the entry easier for people to participate. I knew this time that I would not miss the opportunity to share it on my social media. I was determined to spread the word. I even told my TA about the giveaway during a group meeting for the class. This made all the difference. Within 24 hours we had over 300 comments of friends tagging each other on our post, which is a huge improvement.

There is power in word of mouth communication. We should never underestimate the impact that we can make by sharing our thoughts, opinions, interests and passions.  

Blog #4

Owned Media

With Christmas right around the corner, I find my mind wandering to my family’s holiday traditions. They’re filled with decorating for Christmas, secret Santa with siblings, special breakfasts, and more. These family traditions are extremely important to me. My favorite tradition is making a warm Christmas treat and snuggling up on the couch with my mom to watch a Hallmark movie. We love to do this as often as we can during the holiday break.

One thing that I’ve noticed over the years of this tradition is during every commercial break the first advertisement to come up is for Hallmark itself. I realized this is an example of owned media. Owned media is when a company advertises its own products on their platforms. As Hallmark continues to advertise their movies, shows and products on their own channel, they are participating in owned media. This is a great advertising plan for Hallmark as it holds the audience’s attention and keeps them coming back to view more of their movies. I can remember multiple times that I was going to skip the commercials and my mom would shout to wait for the Hallmark ads to finish so she would know what upcoming movies to record. Hallmark knows the power of owned media.

Blog #3

Connector/Hub

As I’ve learned about social networks, I have thought a lot about how we are each connected to one another through various ways. Certain people play a vital role in linking others together; they are connectors. A connector, also known as a hub, is a person with numerous relationships that works to bring others together in a network.

A great example in my life of a connector is my roommate. She is an extremely charismatic person and loves to meet new people. One day she came up to me and told me about a photographer friend that she had who was looking for models for one of her photoshoots. My roommate said that it would be a wonderful opportunity to get professional photographs and continued to list more friends who had gotten their wedding photos done by her. I decided to give it a shot and messaged the photographer on Instagram about the model call. The next day she messaged me and said that she would love to have me model for her. Because of the connections that my roommate had I was able to have this wonderful opportunity to meet new people and build relationships that I wouldn’t have on my own.

Blog #2

Self-Presentation

Self-presentation is a theory that discusses that we are always putting our best foot forward and presenting our best selves to our audiences. This can be done in many instances online and in person. A person can scroll through Instagram, twitter, or Facebook and see different influencers showing people what they should look like, or what activities they should be invested in. This quickly creates an idea of what the “ideal person” should be. People mold so quickly into what they believe their audience wants them to be.

A great example in my life is this blog post. I’m writing this with Professor Richards and other communication board members in mind. As I write this, I want to make sure that I am being professional, interesting, and fitting into what they believe would be a “good” communications graduate. Do I have to be exactly like everyone else? No. Am I still trying to achieve presenting my best self? Absolutely! I believe that it is important to remember that self-presentation is not always a negative thing. It is easy to see things on social media that can cause thoughts of comparison and feelings of self-doubt. However, when self-presentation is done gracefully and truthfully, others can see it and use it to their benefit and individual growth.  

Blog #1

Synchronous Communication

Synchronous communication is when two users communicate together through social media at the same time. This type of communication creates a conversation for the users and instantaneous responses between them. An example of synchronous communication is Facetime, a video calling ability on an iPhone, similar to Skype or Facebook messenger’s video option. Once two or more people connect the immediate communication begins. Quick conversations and instant replies make Facetime a great synchronous communication tool. Many people can be seen using Facetime as they’re walking home from school, going grocery shopping, or catching up with their family in a different state. This creates an easy and instantaneous way to connect and show others what they are seeing when they are seeing it.