Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fake News, Clickbait, And the Era of Trolling

Ryan Parent

There is no doubt that our generation loves to see something go wrong.  We want to drama and excitement in all walks of life including our news.  Due to this eagerness to find something captivating online, more and more fake news channels are popping up in order to grab our attention and feed us half-baked stories made up by someone in a matter of 10 minutes.

For those who are not aware of these practices, clickbait is the act of creating a headline that leaves much to the imagination but creates a sense of urgency.  For example, Paris Wade and Ben Goldman of have been using clickbait headlines such as “Cant Trust Obama. Look At The Sick Thing He Just Did To Stab Trump In The Back.” The article itself was made up almost entirely of opinion and rumor but the captivating headline would bring in a huge wave of readers as well as supporters who believe articles like this to be the whole truth.

On the bright side, reports that like most trends, clickbait will not be around forever.  They explain that Facebook is currently making an effort to regulate clickbait through surveys and user input to deliver stories that seem like they would be interesting to you instead of what has been clicked on the most.  User input is going to be huge in getting rid of clickbait.  If we want to get information based off of what we like, we need to make it known that we have interests beyond what is currently trending. (Link:

As for trolling, trolling is the act of creating a headline in order to get a rise out of somebody.  So even if the viewer is not interested in the content, they click on the story strictly because they want to know who would have such an opinion or how the author could possibly justify such a post.  Trolling creates a world with no trust in journalists or their stories.  In fact it is an insult to journalism itself as it capitalizes on getting viewers instead of educating the public.
It may seem like these are not huge problems in the long run but that is simply not true.  Social media and its journalistic influence played an especially huge role in politics in the past couple years and especially with the last election.  Political bots share propaganda constantly while also influencing political discourse online to influence voters.  Freedom Of The Net reported that because of this, Internet freedom has declined for the seventh consecutive year. also reported that these bots now make up for half of all Internet traffic worldwide. (Link:

The world of journalism is in an increasingly volatile place at the moment and it will take strong action to begin returning it to its glory days.  Technology makes it increasingly difficult to control your media intake as well as to tell whether it is true or not.  Ironically enough it looks like social media outlets will be the ones to help fix this epidemic but then, is this really such a good idea in itself? Only time will tell.


  1. Is there a reliable and valid research why fake news is rampant? Aside from clickbaits, trolling and the fact that 'our generation wants something to go wrong', of course.

  2. Technology has certainly made it hard to tell what news is true and which is not. People distrust journalist, and believe a vast majority of online news to be fake. Technology makes sorting through the truth extremely difficult because of the lack of ethical guidelines in what is allowed to be posted. The biggest problem is how to determine what is actual news and what is fake. According to Richard Johanneses, "we should always exercise caution in acceptance and care in evaluation. Using the best evidence available to us, we should reach a reflective judgement of the message" (2008). The world of journalism is indeed a volatile place as each station is doing whatever they can to grab viewers and rating. Somewhere along the way, journalist and news source have decided to abandon the ethical responsibilities to report the truth as well as both side of a story. Journalist have allowed their personal biases and political opinions to cloud those responsibilities they have to the general public. The fake new is not going to go away any time soon, and it is probable going to get worse as the demand for "things to go wrong" increases. The best that we can do at this point, is to evaluate everything we read and use our best judgement in deciding if it is true or not. That is the best we can do at this point as the ethical standards that once defined journalism has deteriorated causing the public to no longer trust the news.

    Johannesen, Valde,& Whedbee. (2008). "Ethics in Human
    Communication". Long Grove, IL. Waveland Press.