BLOG: Fake News – The Real Story

by Julian Westaby.

Fake news has rarely been out the real news since the election of Donald Trump, and our speaker, Charles McGhee, former editor of The Herald and Evening Times in Glasgow, opened his presentation with the headline “Trump – any news he doesn’t like he dismisses as fake news”

Charles quickly set about examining the alarming growth of this phenomenon.

Charles explained how the rapid decline of traditional, trusted media brands such as newspapers have helped fake news to flourish in the largely unregulated but enormously powerful social media environment.  After a recent EU study revealed that only 7% of respondents trust content on social media, Charles asked what digital giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are doing to clean up their act.

Charles also ‘wound back the clock’ reminding us that ‘spin’ such as the ‘heroic’ stories of the battle of Dunkirk, 80 years ago managed to turn a major defeat into a victory. Winning the propaganda war wasn’t fake news as such but it demonstrated that we are no strangers to news management and manipulation.

Charles is a member of the board of the UK’s new press regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which was set-up in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.  During the presentation he pointed out the press itself had contributed to the drop in public confidence in the media; “We just need to look at the phone hacking scandal to see how trust has been lost in the Press”.

The decline of the media and the rise in social media has coincided with the rise in fake news and these days anyone can set themselves up as a content generator in online publishing or broadcasting. Maybe that’s why only 18% of people in the UK trust what they read in social media (and only 7% in Europe as a whole). You would think this would make fake news unpopular but the numbers tell otherwise, so much so the rise in fake news websites is eye watering. The click through to their websites is so high that advertisers are clambering over each other to get their products and services advertised on them, “It’s big business!” exclaimed Charles.

This is all very well but what does it mean for our businesses? There were many questions from the breakfast audience, keen to know how they could navigate this communications minefield to protect their reputation and brand identity. Charles was not short of tips:

  • Constantly monitor your brand online
  • Wikipedia is often full of misleading information so make sure any facts about you are correct
  • Use complaints channels such as Ofcom and IPSO for support and advice
  • Recruit brand ambassadors and roll them out, particularly if you are facing negative issues

The presentation was wrapped up with some detail on what the media is doing to combat fake news. In summary, they have been slow to respond but we are seeing broadcasters such as the BBC and Channel 4 implementing ‘reality check’ teams. Even the social media giants are finally addressing the problem with partnerships with fact-checking organisations such as Full Fact to help monitor content as well as offering new tools to help users spot fake news.

Clearly this hot topic of Fake News is not going to disappear anytime soon so we are grateful Charles was able to bring his experience and knowledge to help us understand this global phenomenon, and how best to operate our business within it.

A BIG thanks to Charles who can be reached at charles@mcgheemedia.com

We also heard from Colin Millar CEO at Scottish Personal Assistant Employers Network (SPAEN) who took a few minutes to describe their new Employ{my}Ability programme. If you would like more information please contact Colin at ColinM@Spaen.co.uk

In September we welcome back Glasgow Chamber CEO Stuart Patrick to look at Glasgow’s vision: what it means for business. Book Now

Photography by Great Scot Photography and Creating Sparks

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