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Magda Skrzypek
Media development worker

Prague-based media development worker from Poland with a journalistic background. Previously worked on digital issues in Brussels. Piqs about digital issues, digital rights, data protection, new trends in journalism and anything else that grabs my attention.

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piqer: Magda Skrzypek
Tuesday, 09 January 2018

Why A Journo Who Popularized The Term 'Fake News' Now Regrets it

In October 2014, an article published on nationalreport.net falsely claimed that a town in Texas was placed under quarantine after a family tested positive for the Ebola virus. This was one of the first times BuzzFeed News Media Editor Craig Silverman used the term 'fake news' as he tweeted with frustration about the spread of panic caused by the report. 

Three years later, Silverman is frustrated again, and again it's about the 'fake news'. The phrase over the years has changed its meaning — shifting from being a reference to online misinformation disguised as a legitimate news, it has turned into a term used to discredit anything anybody disagrees with. In fact, the phrase selected as the word of the year 2017 has been so overused that by this time it has become almost meaningless.

"Three years after that tweet about National Report, I cringe when I hear anyone say 'fake news' ... I should have realized that any person, idea, or phrase — however neutral in its intention — could be twisted into a partisan cudgel," admits the journalist.
In this honest and reflective article, Silverman tries to make us aware (and alarmed) about the potential consequences of the misuse of 'fake news' in the public discourse. His frustration can be boiled to one sentence: he hates how real information is now branded as fake, when "bullshit gets presented as facts".
"Online misinformation, and the exploitation and manipulation of our information environment, are real, complex problems affecting global societies. By making the term 'fake news' ubiquitous and muddled, we lost a battle in the actual war against completely false information," writes the author.

Although it's debatable whether the battle is truly lost, and if yes, whether the loss is irretrievable, the seriousness of the fake news phenomenon is undeniable, as rightly captured in this article.
Why A Journo Who Popularized The Term 'Fake News' Now Regrets it
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