What causes Fake News to spread? People.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

For all the panic, soul-searching and debate about the “fake news” phenomenon, there’s one basic truth I rarely see discussed.

Much of the blame for the spread of “fake news” can be placed squarely at the feet of the general public, far too few of whom actually apply critical thinking to the things they share on social media. And agreeing with the sentiment is no excuse for sharing something fake – that’s just cognitive bias at work:

But I agree with the sentiment, so it’s OK to share NO. NO. NO. That’s not good enough any more. Maybe that was OK back in the innocent noughties, but if you’re willing to reflexively share this without engaging your critical thinking, then I’ll bet that you’re willing to share more serious bullshit memes without thinking them through.

There’s a kind of arrogant paternalism in thinking that we can “save” people from “fake news”, without this central problem being addressed.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.