Fake News is news, hoaxes, misleading information to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. It refers to stories that are to be perceived as real and deliberately distort the real news with the intention to affect and influence people’s views, push political agenda’s or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers. The fake news stories are often deceitful and play the role of looking like trusted websites (Webwise n.d).
The term Fake News became very prevalent during 2016. With the rise of people using social media as their sources of news, it makes it very accessible for anyone to publish content on the internet. We are currently in a society where monologic media such as the news, newspapers, radio etc are no longer our main source of new information or of political and societal issues. Our sources have broadened to a dialogic media such as the internet, social media and online blogs where we have access to multiple sources where a lot is published, shared and consume information and news with very little regulation or editorial standards.
There is an ethical responsibility of journalists and publishers to be ethical in the content they produce. By producing credible and factual content, this allows them to be acknowledged as a reliable source. The MEAA Journalists Code of Ethics display The Honesty Code. This code states:
“to report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.”
This code of ethics was disregarded when multiple articles surfaced regarding Youtuber’s most popular person, Felix Kjellberg also known as Pewdiepie, claiming he was promoting a highly anti-semitic channel by recommending a video featuring a racial slur and white supremacist conspiracy in his since-edited video posted on the December 9th2018 (Romano 2018). Many online outlets were quick to follow, creating conspiracies that Pewdiepie was radicalising his following by sending them to Youtube videos created by racists.
Kjellberg responded to these claims in a follow up video he posted on the 11thof December 2018 as he wasn’t aware of some of the hidden and not so hidden Nazi references in this channel’s videos, where he dismissed the ideas he was promoting anti-semitism as he states in his video that he was merely “recommending someone for their anime review.”
Although Pewdiepie wasn’t affected immensely from the Fake News claims, other Youtuber’s haven’t been as fortunate when it comes to Fake News rising against their names. James Charles is a Youtuber and beauty influencer who’s image had been rattled by fellow ex-bestfriend and beauty Influencer, Tati Westbrook. Tati Westbrook had posted a 38 minute video which was ignited when she found out James Charles had endorsed a company, Sleep Vitamins by Sugar Bear Hair at Cochella, which is a direct competitor to her vitamin brand Halo Beauty (Hoyer 2019). Not only did her video address the betrayal she felt but also included accusations that James Charles who identifies as a homosexual, was using his status to “trick a straight man into thinking he’s gay, yet again, and somehow you’re the victim” and furthered this by saying “its really disgusting to manipulate someone’s sexuality” (ABC News 2019).
Although Tati Westbrook had no evidence to the claims made on the since deleted video, there was immediate outrage from millions of people in regards to the actions of James Charles. Immediately the internet, whether they were fans of either of them, had sided with Westbrook. The backlash was evident on social media, especially Twitter, where many people were criticising James Charles including comments bullying him on his sexuality, appearance and demeanour. Throughout the aftermath of Westbrook’s video, Charles was also subject to many threats including death threats and had suffered a loss in followings on his social media, including a total loss of 3 million subscribers from his Youtube channel.
The MEAA code of ethics states that ethical journalism requires conscientious decision-making in context and that they are to educate themselves about ethics one of the statements being:
“present pictures and sound which are true and accurate. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed”
Many online websites started to report on the stories that were distributed by individuals via Twitter of their alleged experiences with James Charles, claiming he had sexually harassed them. These online sources didn’t follow with the above statement as they reported and distributed false information and screenshots of the alleged stories. James Charles response finally was released in a video posted on the 18thof May called “No more lies” where he addresses all the claims made against him and also shutting down the fake stories posted on twitter. The situation surrounding a person by the name of Sam, who Westbrook had claimed James Charles allegedly sexually manipulated, was addressed in his video as he says there was no manipulation of sexuality between him and Sam by providing screenshots of the messages between himself and Sam in his video (Soen 2019). The other claims made against him were also back up by credible evidence and clarifying everything in detail.
It is evident that the distribution of Fake News can have detrimental impacts on millions of people as well as the individuals involved. The internet and social media has made is very accessible for anyone to publish content on a website, blog or social media profile and potentially reach large audiences (WebWise n.d) Fake news was once referred to as satirical news, intended to be humorous but has now transformed into deliberate misinformation that can impact majorly, as many viewers base their opinions on the information they receive (Wert 2018).
Explained: What is Fake News? N.d, Webwise, viewed 24thMay 2019, <https://www.webwise.ie/teachers/what-is-fake-news/>
Hoyer, M 2019,Beauty Bloggers James Charles and Tati Westbrook end their friendship, News.com.au, viewed 25thMay 2019, <https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/beauty-bloggers-james-charles-and-tati-westbrook-end-their-friendship/news-story/e18584f07093009972397c1c7c20a3a7>
James Charles loses 2.6 million subscribers after falling out with fellow Youtuber Tati Westbrook 2019, ABC News, viewed 24thMay 2019, <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-13/james-charles-loses-youtube-subscribers-tati-westbrook/11107222>
MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics, MEAA, viewed 24thMay 2019, <https://www.meaa.org/meaa-media/code-of-ethics/>
Romano, A 2018, Youtube’s most popular user amplified anti-semtitic rhetoric. Again, Vox, viewed 24thMay 2019, <https://www.vox.com/2018/12/13/18136253/pewdiepie-vs-tseries-links-to-white-supremacist-alt-right-redpill>
Soen, H 2019, James Charles just dropped a video responding to the drama and it’s a lot, The Tab, viewed 25thMay 2019, <https://thetab.com/uk/2019/05/19/james-charles-no-more-lies-video-101906>
Wert, K 2018, The Real Impact of Fake News, Medium, viewed 25thMay 2019, <https://medium.com/nonviolenceny/the-real-impact-of-fake-news-9b52d99407d7>