Amol Rajan, BBC | Fake News

Amol Rajan is the BBC's media editor. That means he writes about what is happening in the media around the world.

Dear Burnet News Club members,

 

Thank you so much for your very flattering invitation to participate in your study. I like clubs. I’m a clubbable guy. And I also really believe in the importance of journalism. That’s why I’m happy to be part of your club’s thinking.

Let me try to answer your questions, taking each one in turn.

Does fake news always affect peoples’ thoughts and beliefs?

From: BNC Fan1000 | North Beckton

 It doesn’t have to, but it very often does, and I wish it didn’t. I think it would be worth noting the difference between thoughts and beliefs. We all have loads of thoughts, each time some signal flickers in our mind; but we have fewer beliefs. Beliefs are attitudes to, and stances on, the world. I think a good test of the impact of fake news is whether it guides beliefs, thoughts - or both. So if I see a fake news story saying ‘The Pope endorses Donald Trump’, the

So if I see a fake news story saying ‘The Pope endorses Donald Trump’, the thought that the Pope might endorse Trump for President would enter my mind, but by applying common sense and scepticism, I would never hold the belief that the Pope did, in fact, endorse Trump for President.

So fake news does always affect the thoughts of those who see it, but it doesn’t have to inform their beliefs. The key thing is to apply scepticism – in other words, to ask the question, can this really be true?

Can people with power stop fake news?

From: BxChrono | Malcolm Arnold Academy

 Yes, they can if they want to; but the worry is that they won’t because they don’t need to.

I think there are three groups of people who can stop fake news.

  • First, governments. In Germany, they are drafting laws to stop the spread of fake news, but they have a very different attitude to the media to, say, America. In America, Donald Trump probably won’t try to stop fake news, because he often benefits from it, and because they believe so strongly in freedom of speech.
  • Second, technology companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter. They control the algorithms that spread fake news. Alas, they often make money from fake news, so they may not be all that motivated to act.
  • Third, us – the readers. We are more powerful than you might think, because ultimately it is our demand for information that causes fake news to spread. So if we are smarter about reading and sharing fake news – that is, if we stop doing that – then we are more likely to prevent others reading fake news, and being influenced by it.

"False news is just news which contains errors of fact, and misplaced emphasis – of the kind that you can see in British tabloids every single day.

Fake news is deliberate information designed to go viral, which is usually created by people who have a political or financial motive." 

Amol Rajan, BBC Media Editor

How do journalists know if all the information that they find is true?

From: Minnie2395 | Grace Academy Coventry

 There is only one way to find out. Check! Checking means searching for evidence, speaking to lots of people, and putting in the time to make sure you’ve got all the facts– and a proper understanding of the story. All this takes time, which can be difficult when you are on a tight deadline; but there is no substitute for it. And, reassuringly, it requires skills and judgement that no robots will ever be able to master.

What happens if we think that true news is fake news?

From: Lilyose | St Peter’s Primary School

I think it is worth explaining the difference between false news and fake news. False news is just news which contains errors of fact, and misplaced emphasis – of the kind that you can see in British tabloids every single day. Fake news is deliberate information designed to go viral, which is usually created by people who have a political or financial motive.

If you have a suspicion that the facts in some story are wrong, it doesn’t make it fake news. It could be false news, where the journalist has simply got some key facts wrong. Try reading a tabloid newspaper tomorrow and you’ll see plenty of examples of this.

If you have a suspicion that the facts in some story are wrong, but they have been deliberately inserted to spread misinformation, then you should try to work out not just where it is coming from but what it is saying. If it is fake news, usually you’ll find that it’s someone with a very particular agenda. You should feel free, once you’ve gathered all the relevant information, to describe fake news as just that – but only if you’re sure!

Why does fake news get more attention than real news?

From: North Beckton

I think – and hope! – that it doesn’t. It’s very important to remember that fake news is a tiny part of the whole news system.

Sure, there have been some high-profile cases. Fake news usually spikes during election periods, and especially when the results are tight; but it’s only a small part of what viewers, listeners and readers are exposed to, thank goodness.

17 Comments

  1. Chiltern Way Academy Chiltern Way Academy

    In response to BxChrono | Malcolm Arnold Academy:

    It is not possible to stop fake news because it is global and so it is not down to just one person with power, it would take everyone with power and we can’t decide who that would be.

    KC

    • Imagine that there were no barriers to people in power coming together to agree on what to do. What could they do? Here are a couple of ideas:

      – A world journalist conference to discuss what to do about fake news.
      – An independent panel that decided if news website are trustworthy or not. They could go on a special list if they are.
      – More sites like the BBC’s ‘reality check’ which gives evidence to prove or disprove what people are saying.
      -Make fake news a crime.

      Do you think any of these would work? Or do you have any other ideas?

      • Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

        Hi Tiff, I agree with part of what you say because people that are making fake news websites are wrong because its making people believe things that are not true and this influences the way they think and possibly vote. However, one of the independant people on the panel might actually be one of those people who are making the fake news up, and that would be giving them more power to make a change on everyones belief in the news. I think it would be dangerous giving people that much power, people should be able to have their own thoughts.

        #LoyaLivi

        • Hi #LoyaLivi,

          What about if the people on the panel had lots of checks done to make sure they haven’t made up news? The vast majority of people haven’t so I’m sure it would be possible to find some honest, experienced people to do this job.

          You’re right that they would be very powerful and could change people’s trust in different news organisations. Why could this be dangerous?

          What other solutions can you suggest to deal with fake news?

      • Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

        I think your ideas could work and you have made strong points. The suggestion I think would be the most effective is to make fake news a crime because if it was part of the law not a lot of people would do it. Making it against the law is the only way to stop it. But it would have to have a big enough punishment to stop people doing it permenentaly.
        tiger’shumor

        • Ah interesting point tiger’shumor! That link back to our previous issue on prisons.

          Would it be a crime just for the people who make it, or also the people who spread it around (on social media for example)?

          The media is important for democracy to show the public what is happening in the world. If we make it a crime to make fake news, how could that be dangerous for democracy? (Think about how journalists might feel when writing the news).

  2. Chiltern Way Academy Chiltern Way Academy

    In response to this question: What happens if we think that true news is fake news?

    People would get the wrong idea about things, and they might not act in the same way as they would have done. They might not listen and it might mean they get in to trouble eg if it was reported that people should evacuate because of a tornado and they didn’t then they might die.

    HB

  3. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    How does fake news affect other countries?

    KaraokeKat

  4. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    In response to :Can people with power stop fake news?
    People with power would stop fake news,if they bothered. What can we do about this?

    • Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

      Dear Elaine Primary Academy,
      I disagree with you because The Government can’t keep track of all the devices in the UK because they have more important things to and once someone starts to talk about fake news you can’t stop because when people tell their friends they spread it even more and soon everyone will know about it. So, The Government may have stopped but probably not so if one person even tells a little white it spreads into a HUGE Democracy problem!
      Banning Fake News:
      If we would ban Fake News people will still do it like crimes those are illegal and there is a lot of that and I know because the crime rate in The UK is really high! So even if you make laws people wont stop doing them.
      So this is why The Government can’t stop Fake News.
      PhantomRaven#1

  5. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    In response to :Can people with power stop fake news?
    People with power would stop fake news,if they bothered. What can we do about this? tigershumor

  6. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Dear KC
    I disagree with you saying that Fake News can’t be stopped .e g. you can find people and tell them to go and find some fake news on a web site if you want more information go on my comments on fake news and you we see how to stop it .Do you know that you can go on Newsround and there is tips how to stop fake news online. In the future some people will stop fake news .Hopefully.
    Epic raven

  7. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    dear KC I disagree with u and agree with you because it is possible to stop fake news and I know we don’t know who is going to be prime minister but we can stop fake news by not posting any fake news and if u think it is fake news then don’t read it and ask an adult to see if it is fake or not fake news . I also agree with you because some people won’t stop fake news and wont obey what the government and the president said about fake news and fake information that people give .
    And also if u go on to newsround there are some tips about how to fake news and one of those tips are to read it and see if it sounds or looks believable and to make sure to see newsround for new tips about how to spot fake news.
    Fire raven #02

  8. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Dear Amol Rajan,

    The effect of having fake news means that people who contribute towards the ‘fake news’ have thought and spent their own time hoping that whatever they gave will make a mark.
    What I have just said isn’t the only thing that happens with news you can also hear news from another person which can have an extremely dangerous effect. Though two big points have been made there are much more points to prove. It can also lead people to trust issues.

    The dangers of having fake news can start big issues which can also start protests that sometimes leads to wars.

    Camm MecaniZed

  9. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Who should be responsible for dealing with Fake News?

    I think the government should stop the fake news. Even though it might make them look like a good person or help them get more followers they should still stop. So it’s fair and square
    .
    I also think that if the governments don’t change the news then nobody should because if the followers change the news then they could just make the fake news even worse and can add more fake news.

    BlueRaven

  10. William Patten Primary School William Patten Primary School

    Power is not about followers or popularity , its about strong willed people who want to make a change to the. world.
    Newsgymnast

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