Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Here's the news - who cares if it is true?

Emma Jane Kirby (no relation) is a journalist with the BBC.  She filed this article called "The City Getting Rich from False News" about a small Macedonian city which has been found to be a rich source of communications that are being called "false news".  

Macedonia is a country just north of Greece.  The Kirby article agrees with other reports on motivation for false news claims that I have heard about before.  The whole business seems to be related to what was called "yellow journalism", a practice that I was taught was noticed in the US during the time of the Spanish American war of 1898.  You can look "yellow journalism" up in Google or Bing.

It is the "purposely making wild exaggerations and sensational claims" for the purpose of increasing sales, then of newspapers but today, mouse clicks on web pages.  If I agree to advertise your flower shop on my web pages, I may charge you for advertising based on the number of clicks on the pages bearing the wild stories and ads for your store.  If I reveal that I am an alien life form or that I am the love child of Grandma Moses and Bugs Bunny, if I have enough imagination and nerve, I may concoct a story that entices you and many, many others to see what I have to say.  You may be happy with the number of people who have seen your flower shop coupon and I will be happy with the money I get from you and others.

The BBC reporter says the Macedonian teens are not the only members of Twitter and other digital media using tactics that have been earning them multiples of the average income in their town.  She quotes the authors of the 'false news' items as saying," Americans loved our stories!  Who cares if they are true?"

We generally say that writing fiction is different from announcing my alien heritage as fact and alleging that I have documentation to support my extra-planetary origin claim.  Lies, false speech, libel and slander are old practices going back at least to Old Testament days.  We are again called upon to use investigation and validation and confirmation and common sense to sort what we want to believe from what we don't.

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