Fake News Elections: A Rhetorical Situation Essay
Fake news is problematic and harmful to the wellbeing of a society. Fake news can be defined as low quality news with information that is intentionally false (Shu, Sliva, Wang, Tang & Liu, 2017). Allcott and Gentzkow (2017) reiterated how fake news entailed a bunch of false stories that is spread through social media. They argued how these stories could ultimately affect the economy of a country, through the loss of credibility (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017). People seek and consume a lot of information through social media; therefore, this is how information that is not credible, contains no citation or cannot be fact checked, is spread rapidly through such platforms (Shu, Sliva, Wang, Tang & Liu, 2017). For example, information on the U.S elections. Many scholars/authors have written plenty articles about this issue of fake news. Each taking various approaches to addressing the matter. This paper will cite two of these authors stating their various approaches. Using rhetorical analysis, the papers seeks to comparing and contrasting two very different articles (one journal and one from an online newspaper database) and showcase the authors various takes on fake news. Rhetorical analysis is used when trying to determine authors intentions when writing an article. Each article has a theme; however, the message could be intended for various purposes and audiences. Ultimately affecting the tone, structure, stance, arguments and overall appeal of an article (Roen, Glau & Maid, 2010). The two articles that will be discussed using rhetorical analysis are by Shalbey (2019) and Yerlikaya (2020). Both authors write articles concerning fake news during an election period.
Colleen Shalbey, author at the Los Angeles Times, published an article in 2017 titled; Facts about fake news’s influence on U.S. elections and the fight against misinformation. Shalbey (2017) in her article unpacks the various thoughts about fake news step by step, using the aftermaths of the 2016 U.S presidential election as an example. The article culminates various studies on fake news, to argue weather fake news is a cause for alarm in the new U.S election (2019). Shalbey (2017) begins by stating the way various authors have define Fake News. Shalbey (2017) then argues that fake news may not be something to be seriously concerned over for the next U.S elections. She begins by stating how studies suggest how people can spot what’s fake news. Studies have also found that very few people actively share fake news on social media. Bots and trolls on social media, have been known to cause the rapid spread of fake news. Even though many might not be convinced by the information that bots and trolls spread online, they do however instill much doubt in people. This is what is problematic (Shalbey, 2019). Fact checking is an important aspect of neutralizing the spread of fake news. However, research apparently shows that those who are most in need of fact checking are the ones that do it the least (Shalbey, 2019). Shalbey also discusses how studies show that it is hard to study the true magnitude of how fake news affects societies.
Turgay Yerikaya (2020) published a scholarly article in “Insight Turkey” journal (retrievable from the JSTOR journal database), titled Social Media and Fake News in the Post-Truth Era: The Manipulation of Politics in the Election Process. In the journal article. Turgay focuses on how social media affects social and political elements of a society through the spreading of fake news. Using examples from various countries such as France, U.K, Germany and the U.S. Yerlikaya (2020), discusses how fake news spreading on social media is problematic. Especially during election periods. To study social media; Yerlikaya (2020), posed the question on whether social media influences people during election period, resulting in a negative outcome during the election. In his study Yerlikaya (2020), follows the antithesis to social media as an adequate tool for democracy, by Evgeny Morozov. Yerlikaya’s (2020) study, analyses images and fake news which are used to manipulate the mass media during election times. By analyzing various media events and images, Yerikaya (2020) concludes that social media can no longer be looked at lightly as it is part of rapidly growing technology that ultimately affects how a nation is run. Because of its reach and usage, as well as what social media can potentially be used for; it is a problematic tool especially during major event such as elections. Example of this is how fake news affected the Sirayan elections (2016). Many Sirayan people believed that Turkish immigrants and refugees that came into Syria, threatened democracy by illegally voting during Syrian elections.
Compare and Contrast
Both articles authors have a clear mandate, and that is to discuss how fake news affects an election. Both analyze social media platforms in depth as it is well agreed that social media is a medium through which fake news easily spreads. Shalbey (2017) citing that fake news is a piece of misleading or misinformed information used to confuse the general public. It is often spread through any platforms that would allow it to circulate more widely. Yerlikaya (2020) would agree, as he states the problems that social media gives to a society. Arguing that it outweighs the benefits that many might argue social media holds. Benefits such as; having a positive effect of democracy by allowing as much information to reach various people across different countries (Yerlikaya, 2020). The argument here is that the reach is good, but the information (fake news) is problematic.
Shalbey’s article takes and optimistic approach towards analyzing fake news on social media. Shalbey consults various studies that deem fake news spreading on social media, not that heavily serious. Arguing that there are very few credible sources in the U.S that the general public identify with. These include CNN and Fox News. Many people being wearier of information from mainstream media (Shalbey, 2019). Yerlikaya (2020), takes a more skeptical approach, highlighting the bad side of social media. His study’s theoretical framework stemming from work by Evgeny Morozov. Morozov who argued that social media can be used as a tool for authoritarian regime rather than democracy. Stating that because the internet is free, too many non-state actors use social media to manipulate social and political life (Yerlikaya, 2020). Therefore, social media is a tool of manipulation.
Many people expressed concerns over fake news in the upcoming 2019 U.S election (Shalbey, 2017). In a light reassuring manner, Shalbey would have written such an article to try an answer people’s fears and anxieties over future election concerns in the U.S. Optimistically, this article would have been written for the younger generation. Arguing that the technological gap that older audiences (65+) experience, is what made them more susceptible to spreading fake news on social media platforms. Whilst the younger generation are least likely to do so (Shalbey, 2017). Taking a more scholarly approach, Yerlikaya’s (2020) article would have been written to fellow scholars and to policy makers (political leaders). The way Yerlikaya’s (2020) article is written, exposes the harmful nature in social media across various countries. Highlighting, as a technological advancement it is not something to take lightly. Policies should there for address social media and its ability to spread fake news. News research should constantly seek to understand, even further, social media and the spreading of fake media that can have an impact on social and political development (Yerlikaya, 2020). Towards the end of Shalbey’s article, she too does acknowledge how more studies are needed on the effects of fake news spread through social media. Much of the fake news that is found on social media platforms, is not clicked on, through various links, or even shared. Many people can simply come in to contact with it, but not interact with it. It is this measure of failing to interact with the fake news that ultimately makes it hard to quantify and therefore study (Shalbey, 2019).
The tone of Shelby’s article is much more casual. Using simplistic grammar and easy to follow quotes. The article with bold heading and short paragraphs, makes for an easy read when skim reading the article. Many casual readers have short attention spans therefore are less likely to read whole articles. The use of words like “bots” and “trolls” are not defined. The assumption is that the reader would already be familiarized with such terms. Unlike Yerlikaya’s article where the term bots are defined. Yerlikaya’s article takes more of a scholarly approach. More sophisticated terminology is used, to ensure that it keeps in line with being a reliable scientific study. Longer sentences with detailed discussion and explanation can be found in Yerlikaya’s article. Yerlikaya therefore uses longer paragraphs but just like Shalbey, makes use of relevant headings.
It is easy to distinguish the various platforms that Shalbey and Yerlikaya are writing for. Although they both write on the same topic of fake news; and both articles similarly reviewing literature to argue there points across on the topic of social media and the spread of fake news. Shalbey related mostly to an American young audience and the general public, whilst Yerlikaya’s article is more relevant across various countries, relates to research scholars and potential policy makers.
Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Journal Of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211-236. doi: 10.1257/jep.31.2.211
Roen, D., Glau, G., & Maid, B. (2010). McGraw-Hill Guide. Blacklick: McGraw-Hill Publishing.
Shalbey, C. (2019). Facts about fake news’s influence on U.S. elections and the fight against misinformation. Retrieved 17 November 2020, from https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-fake-news-election-20190319-story.html
Shu, K., Sliva, A., Wang, S., Tang, J., & Liu, H. (2017). Fake News Detection on Social Media. ACM SIGKDD Explorations Newsletter, 19(1), 22-36. doi: 10.1145/3137597.3137600
Yerlikaya, T. (2020). Social Media and Fake News in the Post-Truth Era: The Manipulation of Politics in the Election Process. Insight Turkey, 177-196. doi: 10.25253/99.2020222.11