Dead Reckoning

Dead reckoning: Navigating content moderation after "fake News"


Illustration for data&society

Navigating content moderation after "fake news."

“Fake news” has become an intractable problem and reckoning with it requires mapping new pathways for online news verification and delivery. Since the 2016 election, the phrase has been a daily fixture of U.S. political discourse, with its contested meanings falling increasingly along partisan lines. On the one hand, it has been appropriated by political actors to extend critiques of “mainstream media” that long predate the current moment. On the other, “fake news” has been taken up by a wide range of policymakers, journalists, and scholars to refer to problematic content, such as propaganda and other information warfare campaigns, spreading over social media platforms and search. This white paper clarifies uses of “fake news,” with an eye towards the solutions that have been proposed by platform corporations, news media industry coalitions, media-oriented civil society organizations, and governments. For each proposed solution, the question is not whether standards for media content should be set, but who should set them, who should enforce them, and what entity should hold platforms, the media industry, states, and users accountable. “Fake news” is thus not only about defining what content is problematic or false, but what constitutes credible and legitimate news in the social media era.