Both Korean society and American society are currently undergoing a process of rapid political change. As a result, the influence of media on political and social issues has strengthened, with the issue of fake news arriving on the scene. As the name implies, the fact that fake news, compared to genuine news, is harmful due to the malice behind its release seems to be obvious. However, fake news can actually result in much deeper political turmoil by creating massive ripple effects. What are some methods to minimize the harm caused by fake news?
The issue of fake news became the subject of attention during the American presidential election held in September 2016. According to the Korea Press Foundation (KPF), approximately 8.7 million fake news articles were found online during the election, compared to approximately 7.4 million real articles. Unfortunately, fake news soon invaded Korea as well, as the social discourse began to revolve around the controversy of President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. Since the internet penetration rate of Korean society is one of the highest in the world, fake news has turned out to be a considerable social problem here.
The most fundamental problem with fake news is that it delivers false information to the public, eventually weakening the principles of trust and faith in our society. In other words, if it becomes widespread, it will create a social atmosphere where falsehoods are so prevalent that the public will not even be able to trust facts. The problems caused by fake news become even more serious because of the fact that it proliferates across the internet. On the internet, it has become possible for unauthorized individuals to disguise themselves as media sources and release seemingly credible fake news. Thus, the accumulation of fake news might eventually pose an enormous threat to society.
Given that Korean politics is unstable, fake news should be viewed more seriously. Regarding the impeachment, people with different political perspectives have been fiercely arguing with each other to influence the decision of the Constitutional Court. Fake news has become a common method for those people to defame their political opponents. Furthermore, considering that an election will follow, fake news will become more problematic as the public’s political decisions are based on information provided by the media. This means that the proliferation of false information will result in political misjudgments by distorting public opinion, and thus function as a major obstacle to the realization of democracy.
It is difficult to prevent the creation of fake news because it requires the freedom of expression to be restricted. One way to immediately minimize the harm is to establish an organized fact-checking system that can distinguish facts from fake news. In order to enable an effective system, cooperation between existing media companies is pivotal. For example, on March 1, 37 media outlets in France formed an organization called Cross Check to eliminate fake news during the election period. In this massive organization, at least two media outlets will work on one news report to separate fake news from political discourse. Korean media companies should also collaborate to create a system like this that can function as a filter.
Most importantly, it will be essential to come up with long-term solutions that can completely eradicate the problem of fake news in the future. The best way will be to develop a high level of social and individual consciousness that can help people voluntarily identify fake news from facts. Many changes, including education centered on critical thinking, will have to occur to equip the public with the necessary abilities. Even though this process will require a long period of time, it should certainly take place to defeat fake news, the most malicious virus of democracy.