The convergence in the rise of so called ‘fake news’ and social media has resulted in the muddying of the waters of political discourse.
This can be evidenced by the sharing by the Trump White House of a visually doctored video of CNN White House Press Correspondent Jim Acosta following a confrontation with Trump’s Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
This disinformation was exacerbated by the existence of two dichotomous groups on the social media platform Twitter, communities in the same vein as those described by Andrew Rusbridger in his article on the subject of the relationship between Twitter and media organisations.
In his article, Rusbridger postulates that Twitter is a useful tool for media organisations due to the fact that discrete communities seem to pop up around issues.
I would argue that this same characteristic is one of the main failings of the social network, especially in relation to fake news stories.
For example, in the wake of the post by the White House Press Secretary, two sets of opinions clashed in the comments sections of related posts; one claiming that the video was legitimate (against all rational evidence), the other espousing the view that the post showed the lack of legitimacy of the current administration and its interest in disinformation.
The overall point that I’m trying to make is that fake news misinforms a significant enough group of people that it is harmful to a rational political discourse as it means a segment of the information taken by one side or other to be true but is otherwise not acts as a point of friction, often resulting in an inflammatory response from either side, reducing the likelihood of a rational debate on real issues.