The More You Know: Media and Power

Case Studies from UW Bothell Media & Communication Studies

Role of Media and Democracy in the world of Fake News

Individual case study: Role of Media and Democracy in the world of Fake News:

— By Autumn Hong


In our academic reading written by Stanly “The Problem of Propaganda”, the author states out “In a democracy, the greatest is freedom. Plato writes, ‘Freedom: Surely you’d hear a democratic city say that this is the finest thing it has, so that as a result it is the only city worth living in for someone who is by nature free’” (Stanley), in addition, “Democracy can be understood at three level of analysis as membership organization, a cultural formation of civil society, and as a mode of governance” – “as a mode of governance, it involves institutions such as periodic competitive elections of individuals to major public officers, a universal franchise, transparency of state operations, the rule of law, and equality under the law.” (Stanley) My group is focusing on the fake news in multi-ways. My attention is to research how media and democracy play in the world of fake news. And the biggest concern in the democracy must be the president election, especially the president election 2016.

Thus, to explore how social media works on democracy and public press, I found an article “Beyond the Facts of the Case”. This article’s main point is to demonstrate Western government usually control alternative media to control the public press. Government communication strategies involving deceptive combinations of exaggeration and omission – as well as probably occasional outright lies. It points out using ‘fake news’ as propaganda to be the weapon to invade is seriously wrong. And it threatens the journalism.

“American Democracy has been repeatedly buffeted by changes in media technology” (Allcott). How Media and Democracy plays a role in Fake News, the most news would focus on president elections. In Cornel’s article “The Role of the Media in Deepening Democracy”, she said, “The media can play a positive role in democracy only if there is an enabling environment that allows them to do so”. Overall, fake news is everywhere, the media does not give it a right environment at present. Especially in the 2016 election, a number of fake news were created between the two president candidate – Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. The fake news became the tool to threaten and attack each other. Nowadays, radio and television, the internet became the dominant platforms (Allcott).

In 2016 elections, social media like Facebook was playing a negative role in democracy by the fake news. The most popular fake news stories were more widely shared on Facebook than the most popular mainstream news stories. Fake news can be relayed among the users through these social media and without checking by the third party. The Indian Express said that “the role of Facebook and Twitter and social media, in general, has come under scatching criticism and scrutiny for its role in this election”, even BuzzFeed News investigation showed that over 140 pro-Trump websites with sensational political headlines were being run by teens in Macedonia. Even many news said that Trump was elected by these social media pushing. Silverman said that “our analysis of three hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages found that 38% of all posts were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false, compared to 19% of post from three hyperpartisan left-wing pages that were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false”, and then he concluded that this cable news got more attention from public and helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump. The fake news from each different types of social media, they lead the public to an incorrect direction or change their mind to absorb this fake news.


BuzzFeed News gave an analyzed about the social media platform express the news about the president election. The fake news rate in Right-wing is obviously higher than left-wing.



(Here are the pictures from BuzzFeed News)

Social media influenced the president election trend is normal for recent 20 years in the United States. However, the fake news from the Facebook has a large portion of supporting Trump in this time. Thus, it is not doubted why some posts after the president election would say Facebook help Trump to be elected by last minutes.

However, in “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election”, it is a research paper from Standford, they did the same job as Buzzfeed and list very detail evidence and data calculate formulary to support their standpoint about fake news in Election 2016. They concluded with “social media were not the most important source of election news”. To change a voter’s decision, a single fake news story needs to have convinced about 0.7% of Clinton voters. This rate is like to seeing 36 television campaign ads.

On the other way, Coronel states in “The role of the media in deepening democracy” that “Democracy requires the active participation of citizens. Ideally, the media should keep citizens engaged in the business of governance by informing, educating and mobilizing the public.” This is the exactly position role of media brings to Democracy. Audience and readers are really easily affected by very catchable key terms or words. Thus, the third party does the fact-checking is really necessary. In “Hyperpartisan Facebook pages are publishing false and misleading information at an alarming rate”, it explains what BuzzFeed News do. These analyses are tried to stand out the center to analyze and collect the data. Striking news ‘Headlines’ always would mislead reader at the first time, it would set up the first expression and thought for the readers at the first time.

Thus, for the different side of fake news using, in democracy, media still have a very powerful effect and control on misleading public press.

Work Cited:

  1. Stanley, Jason. How Propaganda Works.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.
  2. Coronel, Sheila. “The role of the media in deepening democracy.” NGO Media Outreach: Using the(2003).
  3. Silverman, Craig, et al. “Hyperpartisan Facebook pages are publishing false and misleading information at an alarming rate.” (2016).
  4. Allcott, Hunt, and Matthew Gentzkow. Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. No. w23089. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2017.
  5. Dhapola, Shruti. “Fake news and how it is killing democracy through social media timelines.” The Indian Express. N.p., 10 Nov. 2016
  1. Robinson, Piers. “FAKE NEWS WEEK: ‘Fake News,’ Propaganda and Threats to Journalism.” 21st Century Wire. N.p., 12 Feb. 2017
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