Finding accurate facts on the internet can be difficult, as quality information is hard to come by. When looking for a credible source, you would almost always choose information from a university over Wikipedia, or from a government website over a local blogger like myself. But when it comes to an article from the press, can you trust the content that is being published? Over the past few years, specifically during the 2016 presidential election, the phrase “fake news” has become a common term associated with mainstream medias. The question is, should publishing fake news be protected by the freedom of the press clause of the First Amendment, or is it a wrong and possibly illegal act?
Fake news has become a powerful tool that many news networks and media companies use to sway their audience into thinking a certain way about a person or topic. For instance, in the past presidential election, fake news was published from both left and right leaning medias, trying to influence people to think poorly of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. A few of these articles included sources claiming that Trump was a “puppet” of Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, or that Clinton should be put in prison, rather than in office. When you dig deeper into these articles however, you find that there is little to no credibility, and they seem to not be written by people who seek the truth, but by people who have a strong disliking for these political figures.
Unfortunately, trying to get people to agree with them through falsifying information isn’t the worst thing that fake news has brought to the public. In 2016, the Washington Times published an editorial in their paper describing the murder of Seth Rich, an employee of the Democratic National Committee. In the article, they claimed that he leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks and was killed in response to these actions. Even though it was published in the paper and online, there were no facts or evidence to back up this claim. His brother Aaron Rich, and the rest of his family were outraged over this false claim, and filed a lawsuit over it. In September of 2018, Aaron Rich reached a settlement with the Washington Times, and dropped the lawsuit after the Washington Times issued a public apology and retracted the article from their publishings.
It is my opinion that fake news is a harmful method of political propaganda that should be made illegal. It has done much more harm than good in our country, and across the world for that matter. Freedom of the press is a very important clause of the First Amendment, but the people should be able to trust that what the media is publishing is truthful and can be backed up with evidence. If media companies only posted the truth, it would leave people feeling a lot less confused, and give us a better understanding of what is truly going on in the United States.
Emanuel, Daniella. “Should Fake News Be Battled in the Courts?” CNN, Cable News Network, 7 Oct. 2018, Web, 27 Feb. 2019.
Meyer, Robinson. “The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 12 Mar. 2018, Web, 27 Feb. 2019.
Staffers, Carl. “Fake News, Fake Data: How Bad Data and Misleading Graphs Are Fueling Fake News.” Badgerlink, 4 Mar. 2017, Web, 27 Feb. 2019.