The topic of “fake news” played a key role within the project Digital Resistance. But what do we mean when using this term?
The topic of “fake news” is nothing new to our society and has influenced the way we inform ourselves about the world. Accounts throughout history show that “fake news” or propaganda had an impact on people’s individual lives and whole societies (f.e. Uberti, 2016).
Many times conspiracy theories or propaganda were used as a political instrument to manipulate people and cause mistrust and societal divide. Yet, what has changed compared to historical examples is the vast amount of mis- and disinforming content and its quick and far-reaching spread online, mostly through Social Media channels.
What becomes evident as well is that the term “fake news” itself is highly political and as such contested. On the one hand, it has been used to describe intentionally misleading information and news sources, mostly in combination with controversial and divisive topics that are discussed in public such as the so-called “refugee crisis”.
On the other hand, it has been used as a rhetorical tool to discredit professional media that have reported critically (f.e. Wardle/Derakhshan, 2017, p. 16; Tandoc Jr. et al., 2018, p. 138). Probably the most prominent example for the latter use of the term comes from U.S. president Donald Trump who repeatedly linked CNN and other news agencie to “fake news” (f.e. Ross/Rivers, 2018).
Within the Digital Resistance project we refer to “fake news” as a challenge for democratic societies – be it the intentional production of “fake news” to harm certain groups and to foment prejudices or the intentional discrediting of journalists.
In this sense, we follow a broad approach that takes into account different types of disinformation that have been outlined in our handbook and sheds light on their implications for the political sphere and the society as a whole.
Such a broad approach towards the topic of “fake news” is useful for our everyday work in class since it offers many points of contact for Digital Citizenship Education and the 10 domains identified by the Council of Europe (2018a) as well as the strengthening of Competences for Democratic Culture (Council of Europe, 2018b).
For more information please see Chapter 1 of the Digital Handbook.