- Judith Donath: Posting fake news stories is a modern form of identity politics, proclaiming an affinity for a particular community
- To remove the appeal of fake news, people need to value debate and discussion with those who hold opposing views
Judith Donath is a Harvard Berkman Faculty Fellow and formerly director of the MIT Media Lab's Sociable Media Group. She is the author of The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online (MIT Press, 2014). The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.
(CNN)Fake news stories proliferated in this heated election cycle.
- First, follow the now-old adage, "Don't feed the trolls." If someone posts a fake story, and you think they have simply been duped, certainly it is useful to point out the error with a more reliable source. Please do graciously. No one likes to be publicly humiliated. Sometimes a private message is better. But if you think the posting is really about proclaiming identity, ignore it. Don't amplify its value by arguing. And if you must say something, here a private message is really better -- you can convey your disapproval without providing the public display of discord that just strengthens their signal.
- Second, help promote a culture that reveres veracity. Check your sources before you post anything. Support newspapers and other organizations that do good, reliable reporting. Discourage people in your own community when they promote stories that feel good to you, but are, alas, untrue.
- Third, appreciate humor. Like fake news, jokes and satire are markers of identity -- funny to insiders, and often incomprehensible or offensive to outsiders. They may be tasteless, they may be divisive but unlike fake news, they are not an assault on truth.