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The Real Side of Fake News

In recent years, a growing share of what arrives on our digital doorstep belongs to the category of so-called fake news. But a serviceable label for a very real problem does not tell us if we really are living in a “post-truth” world; and, if so, whom we should hold responsible.

NEW YORK – Today’s digital devices and social networks deliver so much information that even the savviest consumer cannot evaluate all of it. We seem to be living in a version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where truth is drowned in a sea of irrelevance. But the future need not be the dystopia that the present seems to suggest.

The share of Americans who get their news from social media has grown rapidly in recent years, to 62% as of 2016. And yet, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, media, academic, technology, and publishing professionals have increasingly come to view the Internet as a cesspool of hate speech, anger, and trolls.

Much of what arrives on our digital doorstep these days is best described as “fake news”: hoax stories, propaganda, and other forms of misinformation. But while “fake news” is a useful label for a very real problem, it does not tell us if we are in fact living in a “post-truth” world; and, if so, whom we should hold responsible. To answer those questions, we need to examine the fake-news infrastructure.

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