Fake News, Satire and Media Literacy

Fake news is real.

We experience fake news daily in the form of misinformation (false info, regardless of intent) and disinformation (deliberately misleading) is everywhere. Take this article about the Lottery Winner for instance – the most widely distributed fake news article on Facebook last year as reported by SocialMediaToday.com. Digital gatekeepers don’t possess the bandwidth, motivation or legal authority to intervene in the distribution of questionable user generated content – a fact which I ultimately am thankful for. The result equals poorly curated, inaccurate, completely fictional or manipulated content which spreads like wildfire under the guise of news and/or newsworthy events.

Photo from worldnewsdailyreport.com

Here’s the thing – more and more content creators are engaging in the creation and distribution of purely fictitious media and are calling it satire. I believe this to be a lazy ploy to capitalize on the shock value of click bait (a less sophisticated storytelling technique) and take advantage of those who’re media illiterate.

*Pause while I grab my soapbox*

Satire is not fiction. It is not misinfo or disinfo. Satire has to reference real people or a real event while not impeding on market recognition of the original. Satire is a format that addresses the irony and comedy of real life.

Still, making this distinction is not always easy.

This is why media literacy is important. As, digital platforms evolve and engagement in social discourse increases, it is imperative that consumers are able to suss out relevant, factual information from the noise created by the evolution of technology and media.

Responsible citizens have a duty to question the credibility of media outlets and content. They must recognize their own contribution to the dissemination of messaging via their “likes” and “shares”. We must not forget that the “social mediated versions of ourselves” (Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age, pg. 37) are impactful, carry influence and can align dangerously with unintended implications.

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