OPINION: Fake news used to be fun. Remember how we laughed when we first heard about alternative facts?
But it stopped being so funny when we realised fake news creates real harm; it’s dangerous, it fuels hate, and can cause incredible damage.
Fake news makers are among the most sophisticated manipulators of emotion in the world.
They know that if someone reads or hears something they want to be true – things they’re scared of being true – they’ll often believe it if it feels true: Muslims are terrorists, vaccines cause autism, global warming is a hoax.
For the most part, it hasn’t affected us in New Zealand. Fake news has been something that pops up in the second half of a news bulletin or on the internet.
Then yesterday this happened.
Judith Collins tweeted a story claiming France had made it easier for adults to legally have sex with children – but that’s not true.What’s true is the opposite: France has passed a law that strengthens consent laws, not weakens them.
Judith’s story is made up – and made up by a website with a history of spreading fiction.
But when the media put it to Judith Collins that she was sharing fake news, she wouldn’t back down.
As far as we know, this is the first time a mainstream New Zealand politician has spread a false story in order to score points politically.
What does that tell you? It tells me that she’s learning; learning that in 2018 you don’t need to show people the truth – you just have to show them something that looks a bit like it.
So far, her fake news link has been retweeted over 50 times.
It might not seem like a big deal, but it undermines the facts. As one writer put it today, it “weaponises ignorance”.¬†
When fake is given the same platform as fact, truth becomes a matter of opinion. You can disguise lies as reality and the facts lose any power they once had.
It starts with acts like this, and that’s why we’re calling Judith Collins out – we’re telling her to #deletethetweet.
Share the hashtag, speak truth to power, and give power to the truth.
Jesse Mulligan is one of the hosts of Three’s The Project