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Is Fake News Here to Stay?

Experience from European elections suggests that investigative journalism and alerting the public in advance can help inoculate voters against disinformation campaigns. But the battle with fake news is likely to remain a cat-and-mouse game between its purveyors and the companies whose platforms they exploit.

CAMBRIDGE – The term “fake news” has become an epithet that US President Donald Trump attaches to any unfavorable story. But it is also an analytical term that describes deliberate disinformation presented in the form of a conventional news report.

The problem is not completely novel. In 1925, Harper’s Magazine published an article  about the dangers of “fake news.” But today two-thirds of American adults get some of their news from social media, which rest on a business model that lends itself to outside manipulation and where algorithms can easily be gamed for profit or malign purposes.

Whether amateur, criminal, or governmental, many organizations – both domestic and foreign – are skilled at reverse engineering how tech platforms parse information. To give Russia credit, it was one of the first governments to understand how to weaponize social media and to use America’s own companies against it.