Why Do Websites Spread Fake News?
Since the dawn of the internet, misleading and untrustworthy information has been spread from website to website and from inbox to inbox. In the past, this flow of information was relatively focused: only if you had a particular interest in a select topic would you be likely to encounter a massive treasure trove of less than reputable content.
These days, however, the rise of social media and independent journalism has given even relatively tiny platforms the ability to amplify misleading content’s reach to a large segment of people. Many brands and businesses have both been the victim of fake news and unknowing propagators of it.
But why do so many entities create content with a focus on spreading lies? To understand this subject better, let’s dive in so your brand can know what is happening, how to avoid it and what kind of atmosphere may be encountered in today’s decentralized online content habitat.
Arguably the single biggest reason why fake news and misinformation is spreading so rapidly these days is because of the sheer ability to make money off of it. Sensational stories or other reports that may seem too good to be true (or simply unbelievable) can make select content creators a fortunate. In particular, social media helps drive viral content in a way that was never before possible. Ultimately, this allows information to spread faster than may seem possible.
The end result is that all of those shares and clicks generate ad revenue. Some fake news mills have been discovered earning several hundred thousand dollars per year from just a single website. That’s a lot of profit – and a lot of motive for the dishonest to pursue such a strategy.
Another huge motivator behind the spread of fake news online is political beliefs, partisanship and even destabilization. While it can be difficult to pinpoint any one specific group or belief system who is universally responsible, many of the most nefarious stories are circulated via social media and earn tons of attention as previously mentioned.
It’s not only unscrupulous profit-chasers who are pinging servers with fake stories and sensationalism, but also organized political movements and even national governments. Many governments have a vested interest in destabilizing the political climate of their ideological or geopolitical adversaries, while organized political parties obviously have much to gain if they can convince voters to back them instead of the opposition.
Last but not least, it is important to remember that not every person spreading misinformation online knows they are doing so. In fact, the vast majority aren’t aware: the key to a successful fake news operation is tricking people into believing that it is real news.
And it’s not just individuals pinging servers on social media with false stories, either. Even some reputable news outlets and journalists occasionally get tricked into sharing fake information, illustrating just how pervasive and powerful this dynamic can be at times.
There are many reasons why people do what they do, but with regard to fake news, the main motivators are profit, politics and a simple lack of awareness. If you make sure to research any wild claims you read online, you can avoid contributing to this broader problem (as an individual or as a brand, blog or business).