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The Anatomy of Fake News

Following a passionate (heated?) discussion at MediaNama’s event on Fake News last week, many people asked me to publish my views on the subject. In this post, I would like to address a few aspects of this issue, on which everyone from Twitter pundits to Donald Trump has a point of view: Is Fake News a new/Recent /Nascent phenomenon? I don’t think so. The idea of Fake news is probably as old as the idea of news itself, and the same applies to the idea of using Fake News for electoral benefits. The first recorded incident of using fake news goes back to Rome in 1522, where Pietro Aretino tried to manipulate the pontifical election by writing wicked sonnets about all the candidates except his favorite one. The NewYork Review of Books recently published a fascinating post on history of Fake News( link). Eric Burns in his eye opening book Infamous Scribblers provides a fascinating account of how until the recent past, all mainstream media was involved in politically motivated journalism and manipulation of public opinion. These tactics involved everything from partial truth to misinformation to outright lying. Have a look at the attached screenshot to know some of that . In the more recent past, there was Jessica Lynch and her Gulf war story. (click here to view full size image) So Fake News is not new. What is new is that we are now talking about it, and our understanding of fake news is very binary. We love to…

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