The 2016 presidential election was a different election than those in the past. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off, with Donald Trump victorious. Donald Trump took the presidency and there is still controversy regarding the “fake news” circling around the months of the election.
With new technological advances, Americans have access to more information than ever before. In 2015, 86% of Americans owned smartphones, with 70% of adults having at least one social cite, and about 90% of young adults also having at least one social cite (Anderson). Americans have access to an overwhelming amount of information, real news and unfortunately, fake news. Fake news is made up news that is incredibly manipulated to look credible and is easily spread online and on social media to large audiences willing to believe it and spread the word. Fake news circles the internet constantly, with no filter and nobody to check each and every story for accuracy, which leads to people not being able to distinguish between the fake and real news. The fake news stories during the 2016 election had a great impact on the results of the election.
Fake news on all platforms of social media affected the results of the 2016 election; however, positive fake news that was shared most times on social media was more effective than negative fake news to aid Donald Trump into winning the presidential election. People who create the fake news are biased, and create the news for their own benefit. Donald Trump Fake NewsThroughout the entire election, there was a plethora of pro Trump stories going around the internet that affected the presidential election. Positive fake news stories are stories that support someone, in this case, Donald Trump, and helped him win the election. These types of fake stories that aided Trump also include anti-Clinton news. In a study done by Stanford University, 115 pro Trump news stories on facebook was shared over 30 million times. Each story was different, and each just as hard to ignore. People who depend on social media as their main source of news have no one to check the sources their reading, so it becomes a lot more likely for them to come across a fake story.
During the election, active Facebook users per month reached 1.8 billion and Twitter’s users got close to 400 million. Almost everyone using these social media platforms most likely saw the different news circulating Facebook and Twitter, and were probably affected. For example, in July 2016, a couple months before the election, a now-defunct website said that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. This website had previously disclosed that it is “a fantasy news website,” however, the disclaimer was not in the article, causing people to not be aware that they were reading a fake story from a false site. The story was shared over one million times on Facebook alone, and some people in a survey conducted reported that they did indeed believe the headline. This could have and most likely easily won over Donald Trump some religious supporters. II.
Hillary Clinton fake news The positive fake news stories about Hillary Clinton circulating social media was not as much or as shared as Donald Trump’s, which is one of the reasons why she was led into losing the election. Pro-Clinton fake news stories include positive stories about her, but they also include stories that are anti-Trump. There was 41 pro Clinton stories with only 7.6 million shares. Roughly 62% of American adults believe the fake news they read, so not having as many fake news stories on her side affected how many Americans believed the fake news about Hillary Clinton. One example of a pro-Clinton fake news story is an anti-Trump story, published by the website The Good Lord Above claiming that Ivana Trump had disavowed her father’s presidential campaign.
At a press the day before the election, the article claimed that Ivana had disavowed her father, saying that “Before this campaign, she was not fully aware of who her father was. Looking back now, the things he has said and done throughout his life are totally unconscionable” and the article continues to claim that Ivana says her father is “not qualified to be president” and that “he is not a smart man”(Snopes). This was proven and fact checked, and was completely false, as Ivana had actually been actively campaigning for Trump that day. TIII. Why do People Create Fake News?Fake news seems to be created because of two main reasons. One is that the news articles go viral on social media and can draw significant revenue when users click to the original site. Others just want to aid the candidate they favor by creating stories.
Some other sites, however, are created for the sole purpose of intentionally creating misleading articles. Other sites post stories that look credible and well put together, and others have a mix between factual articles, usually with a slight partisan slant, and also some fake news articles. The type of people that make these stories all have different reasons. For example, Buzzfeed and the Guardian conducted separate investigations and revealed that more than 100 fake news sites were run by teenagers in Veles, Macedonia. They created stories that favored both Trump and Hillary, and earned tens of thousands of dollars. Another man, Paul Horner, also produced pro-Trump stories for profit, despite claiming that he was actually personally opposed to Trump.
Other people create these fake stories to advance the candidates they personally favor. For example, a 24-year-old Romanian man that ran endingthefed.com, a fake news website that had posted four of the ten most popular news stories on Facebook, claims that he had started the site to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. IV.
Fake News Clouds our JudgementBetween Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the fake news stories that favored Trump far exceeded in number the ones about Hillary Clinton. Humans see fake news as “distorted signals uncorrelated with the truth”(citation), meaning that we see fake news stories as “signals” that distract us from the truth and what is truly happening. Fake news seems to rise above the real news because it is cheaper to provide since users of the internet cannot “infer accuracy without a cost.” As mentioned before, it benefits certain people, in this case, it benefited Donald Trump the most, but it makes it more difficult for users to know the truth about what is truly happening. It clouds their judgement, and distorts their actual views about the candidates because their brain is so extremely clouded with all the news they read, which they do not know whether is true or completely false.
The fake news clouds their judgement and makes it harder for voters to decide on the electoral candidate they like the most. According to Stanford’s database, social media shows that the 38 million shares of fake news in the database translates to 760 million times a user clicked through and read a fake news story. To make it simpler, about three fake news stories were read per American adult on social media alone. During the month of the election, fake news websites received over 159 million visits.
The difference in the fake news statistics between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump truly makes a difference when looking at the bigger picture. With over 30 million shares of the 115 stories that favored Donald Trump on Facebook, and the three stories read per American adult, it is very likely that most of those stories were stories favoring Donald Trump. Again, being one of the reasons that led him to winning the 2016 presidential election with fake stories.
Looking at all platforms of social media, the top news sites that contain real news on social media only had an average of 10.1% share of visits(for 690 US news websites) while fake news sites had an average of 41.8% share of visits(for 65 fake news websites). This indicates that whether or not users went to real news websites, it is very likely that they also visited one of the fake news websites without realizing it, and these fake news sites have no filters, so believing them is easy to do. Thus clouding the judgement of many people who most likely did want to have knowledge of real news.
V. Conclusion and AnalysisAfter the 2016 election, seeing all the fake news spread across social media, it is safe to say that the fake news that supported Donald Trump truly affected the outcome of the election. Although the results of the election depended on how effective and persuasive the fake news stories were, a lot of Americans today look at social media as their main source of news.
According to Stanford’s database, the average US adult read and remembered several fake news articles during the election, and there was a lot more exposure to pro-Trump articles than pro-Clinton, emphasizing the fact that fake news was pivotal and one of the reasons why Donald Trump was able to win the election. But how can we, the people, who truly do seek the truth about our presidential candidates, be prepared for this kind of situation in the future elections? It’s a question of how far we are willing to let fake news take a toll on our daily lives. Should we allow people to continue creating fake news for their own benefit, or should we all fight for the right to know the truth, and nothing but the truth? In the future, it is the hope that all social media platforms face any kind of pressure from us the people to reduce the amount of fake news they allow to be put into their systems. According to Stanford University, both Stanford and Google are eliminating fake news sites on their platforms “on the grounds” that they violate policies against misleading content (Stanford University).
Although this is a work in process, it brings hopes to future elections and a future where both candidates have an equal chance without worrying about fake news stories that could influence the final outcome.