Fake news is nothing new. One could argue urban legends were a pre-internet form of fake news, in that they were often presented as stunning revelations of true information not yet available to the mainstream public. Often, the subject of the rumors was a widely recognized brand or company. Remember what they use to say about Corona beer?
However, the near-ubiquitousness of the internet coupled with the explosion of social media has taken the potential repercussions of fake news to new heights. Once only a mild irritant which could be neatly treated with ridicule and disdain in a press release, fake news in today’s world of viral videos, clickbait, and endless sharing on Facebook has become a pesky infection with no immediate cure.
Take the recent drama with Snapchat as an example. Alleged statements made by the CEO which turned out to be utterly unverifiable led to a one-and-a-half percent dip in share values. Unfounded statements in the age of instant updates don’t get fact checked before being the subject of editorial grievances across the blogosphere and social media.
It was not necessarily the alleged claims which cost the company a loss in value, but the unbridled spreading of the alleged claims before anyone stopped to ask if there was any evidence in the first place.
How companies are fighting back against fake news
Unless a company’s wheelhouse happens to be social media management, chances are they’re not especially skilled at how to maintain their online image in the long run. This weakness sets any company, big or small, up for a potentially damaging dance with rumors and lies spread online about their products or services.
The result is an increased involvement of social media management teams in the online ongoings of companies around the world. Services such those offered on socialvantage.com act as the first line of defense against negative content moving through social media. In essence, these solutions monitor a business’s social media presence and respond when needed to any kind of publicity, good or bad.
While something catastrophic may ultimately require the help of dedicated public relations personnel, simply ensuring a business presence on Facebook and other social media platforms is regularly managed will protect against relatively minor grievances from spiraling out of control.
Governments, on the other hand…
The only entities to be the target of fake news more than companies and celebrities are governments. Putting to bed exaggerated claims of American military activity in and outside the border, for example, have been a hallmark of administrations since the internet first started getting connected to homes.
In responding to fake news, many governments are in a tough spot. If they are democratically engineered – either through a republican or parliamentary system – and thus cherish the values of free speech and admonish the concept of oppressive governance, then getting defensive about rumors looks hypocritical at best. Not to mention, government is distrusted from the start, making responding to false accusations even more delicate an operation to perform.
Then there is the prospect of those in power being influenced by unverified information gone viral. The potential for fake news to impact everyday lives has never felt more real, due to the possibility of unfounded claims leading to major political decisions being made.