Graduate Digest
Getting Real About Fake News

The threats posed by fake news have been growing inrecent years. How should we respond to such threats?

During the run-up to the United States presidential election in 2016, a conspiracy theory linking then candidate Hillary Clinton to a childtrafficking ring operating through a Washington, D.C. pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong, went viral on multiple online platforms. 
The theory, known as Pizzagate, was first published a week before the election on online platforms reddit and 4chan, before snowballing across Twitter, Instagram, and other online channels. It finally reached a climax on 4 December 2016, when a man walked into Comet Ping Pong and fired shots in the restaurant, causing panic in the neighbourhood.
While no casualties were reported, the incident demonstrated the many threats that viral fake news on social media can pose. Besides driving mass threats against multiple innocent individuals and sparking a shooting that could have claimed lives, it likely also had an effect on voter decisions.
While Singapore has yet to experience the kind of effect that fake news has had in the US, it has seen its share of news sites that bill themselves as reputable but have been found otherwise – one of the most noteworthy being The Real Singapore, whose owners were in 2016 found guilty of fabricating articles to foment anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore to earn advertising revenue. 
Fake news damages public trust and confidence in institutions, threatens both journalistic integrity and democracy, and can have serious social and political consequences. Find out more on this issue here.


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