Visualizing The Fake News Problem

Tyler Durden's picture


There’s been no shortage of blame passed around for the so-called “fake news” epidemic that has been front and center since the U.S. election.

As Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins explains, social media has been singled out as one key factor leading to the spread of misleading or false news. However, low barriers to entry for creating content, hyperpartisanism, confirmation bias, and the echo-chamber effect have also been identified as causes or symptoms in the proliferation of such stories.

It’s certainly a complex problem to unravel, and many proposed solutions are just as alarming as the symptoms they try to treat. The decentralization and fragmentation of information is the core of what makes the internet great, and this democratization helps to decouple power away from the established institutions that may or may not have our interests at heart.

Source: Visual Capitalist

How do we regulate news for its authority and legitimacy without stifling alternate viewpoints, differing narratives, and independent sources of information?


In today’s landscape, people are turning away from traditional media and gravitating towards digital content. In this new digital media paradigm, who is considered a trustworthy and convenient source of information?

As long as they could remain reputable, the mainstream outlets that garnered eyeballs throughout broadcasting history should have been the obvious benefactors of this transition. Groups like CNN and Fox News, or The New York Times and The Washington Post, could have remained unquestioned authorities on the issues.

However, Desjardins continues, it seems like this opportunity has been recently squandered to some extent. These outlets have been slow to adopt their business strategies to the digital landscape, and they remain in damage control mode as advertising revenues drop and profitability wanes. Publishers have been under immense pressure to generate views, and have taken shortcuts in content creation to do this. Hyperpartisan viewpoints that confirm existing biases (aka, the Huffington Post or Breitbart models) and sensational clickbait headlines have been one easy way to build traffic. Some publishers also have an itchy trigger finger, and it seems that getting a story out first has become more important than verifying its validity.

These above factors have, ironically, led to mass media as being a direct part of the “fake news” problem. The retracted stories on Russian propaganda by the Washington Post have been a lightning rod for scrutiny, and entire posts are dedicated to keeping misleading stories from established media at bay. Having a track record with zero blemishes is obviously a difficult target to hit, but the reality is that we are seeing misleading news from everywhere now: “fake news” outlets, mainstream outlets, and the White House itself.


Even before “fake news” hit the mainstream, a poll by Gallup showed that Americans’ trust in mass media was hitting an all-time low. In September 2016, only 32% of people said they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, which is a decline of -8% from the previous year.

A report from Edelman from January 2017 is even more damning. Trust of the media declined -5% from 2016, which is faster than trust is declining in government (-1%), business (-1%), and NGOs (-2%).

As we mentioned earlier, the rise of fake news is complex and very difficult to untangle. However, the fact is that established news outlets aren’t doing themselves any favors. If people feel like they can’t trust the Washington Post or other such sources, then it should be no surprise that they are turning to the power of “word of mouth” from their peers more often – no matter how fallible this might be.

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rocmon's picture

Really? That chart needs to go way down... how can so many people still have trust in the media and NGOs?

HRClinton's picture

LOL. I have absolute trust in my friends in the Media.

They are so fair and helpful to Progressives, and went that extra mile during the Election. 

I would have won, had it not been for Wikileaks and the Russians. Assange and Putin must pay.

mosfet's picture

MDB if that's you, you're seriously off your game.  Unimaginative, cardboard peformance, not even worth a downvote.  Ahh fuckit,'s a pity upvote for the effort at sarcasm.

mind reset's picture

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

CheapBastard's picture

"If you want to keep your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance. I promise!"


Well, at least that's solid!

Pelosi, Reed and Obama swore to it.

NoPension's picture

We'd halfway buy their bullshit if we had gotten even 10%?of this kind of coverage with Obama.

I suppose they would rather have Mr. Trump fill out his basketball picks.

Insurrector's picture

The Trump Brand is an attention hog.  It loves controversy. It incites the media attention, and they fawn all over its faux news.

It tweets and tweets to get attention - most of it negative because it has diarrhea of the mouth and fingertips and constipation of the brain.

Insurrector's picture

Read up on the HEART Act - a universal healthcare bill proposed by 19 Rebpulicans in response to the Clinton healthcare initiative (aka HillaryCare) that went down.

The fundamental differences between HillaryCare and the HEART Act had to do with limiting damages and tort 'reform.'

Even Newt Gingrich was crowing about universal healthcare and the individual mandate until 2010.  And the Heritage Foundation has a detailed proposal on their website still that dates from 1989 (with the universal mandate).

Like it or not, the ACA was a Republican idea first and foremost until Obama took office and the Republican flock drank the "No to anything Obama" kool aid.

Rather than sip strange Kool aid - look it up yourself!

RiverRoad's picture

Fake news is "disinformation" and that is what the CIA specializes in.  Trump and the rest of us are dealing with the same Bush/CIA-run media that has supported their control of this country for decades.

Dead Canary's picture

I trust the media completely!

( there, I said it. where's my money )

TheEndIsNear's picture

People are waking up?

Ghordius's picture

alternative: people choosing their preferred worldview, and sticking to it, and damn the facts. here, the most important sentence in the article:

"Hyperpartisan viewpoints that confirm existing biases (aka, the Huffington Post or Breitbart models)..."

why should the "normal, common" person on the street even try to understand the various point of views? it's... painful, and lots of work. you have to bend a bit your mind in order to understand any unfamiliar point of view

the label hyperpartisan is apt

don't forget that other apt label that is being used, lately: snowflake

the best definition I read so far: "someone that is not capable to understand a point of view that differs from his own"

hyperpartisan -> snowflakes. some with vagina hats, some with jackboots, does not matter, the Other could as well be a Martian or a Venusian, can't be understood, is just stupid or whatever

Sam.Spade's picture

Crappy definition.  Showflakes are called 'snowflakes' because they consider themselves 'precious and unique' and because they melt in the rays of the new political dawn.  In other words, they are emotionally fragile and wedded to the current political paradigm.

No one who reads Zero Hedge is a snowflake.

Ghordius's picture

oh, and another alternative point of view from me:

why do most people read news? in my experience, most do because they want to be able to comment in talks, for example at the workplace's "watering hole"

so if that pause is full of snowflakes talking about Breitbart, you need to read Breitbart to keep up

and if that pause is full of snowflakes talking about HuffPo, you need to read Huff to keep up

Keep Up With The Joneses, remember? the principle extends to many facets of life. in this article, it's called "Peer Opinion"

Sam.Spade's picture

I downvote you because no 'snowflake' reads Breibart.  That term doesn't mean what you think it means.

lil dirtball's picture

"You are getting sleepy. Sleepy ... sleeeepy."

Lol ... it's all fake news. You're soaking in it.

The NDAA of 2013 makes legal the creation and dissemination of propaganda for the domestic population.

brushhog's picture

I think we can offically conclude that being a democrat is a mental disorder. 51% still trust the media?? They were caught red handed lying and cheating. Theres no mystery here.

When you deny reality, commit violent acts, and become obsessively hostile as an individual they put you away. As a group it should be no different.

Ghordius's picture

I think that we could enquire a bit more in that thing. I wonder, for example, if there was a poll among non-Americans not living in the US and following a bit American news what the results would be to a question:

"do you think that hyperpartisan Americans have a slight mental disorder?"

I'd be among those that would say no. And I would be possibly a minority. but if I would counterargue that it's the hyperpartisanship that is bat-shit crazy, I think I could score some points

note, in this, that hyperpartisans do scan the rest of the world in search of other hyperpartisans to cheer. we witness this often, here on ZH

GreatUncle's picture

20+ years ago thr rumour was if you travelled on a greyhound bus in the USA one of the 2 people sitting either side of you was mental = crazy.

Was that fake news too?


Ghordius's picture

+1 good one, I remember that. it was connected to the issue of psychatric wards that got reformed, wasn't it? and that led to many "formerly mental" people being released, and wandering around (or riding a bus), or at least that was the story my failing memory returns to me

blast me if I know, I mentally filed that under "let's wait and see" and tagged as "possibly another social institution destroyed?"

CheapBastard's picture

The Dems I know have splintered. Many have realized how screwed they were by Hillary and her gang who are not really Democrats, they are hard core neocon socialists.


A handful still cling to the propaganda bashing trump with no basis at all. They can't even verbalize why they beleive the fake news but they do. I guess they can fit into the fanatic pile or just plain stupid.

im-a-nut-job's picture

Yes, both would be  crazy.

Insurrector's picture

One might say that staying on that bus between two crazy people defines you as crazy too!

Insurrector's picture

ISIS would be proud of this caustic drivel.  Divide the Americans and let them kill each other.

If the actions of a small minority determine the procilivities of the whole, then we an safely conclude that Republicans have mental disorders too.

When information is cheap or free, then you just have to dig more and cross reference.

Ungaro's picture

Trust in instutiotions is waning because they have failed us, the public. Government, the churches, the media, businesses and NGOs all represent their own self interests instead of the interests of the people by and for whom they were created. It is hard to imagine that this would somehow change but if it did and these institutions began focusing on creating maximum value for the people they are supposed to serve, the trend would reverse. But I am not holding my breath. 

Ghordius's picture

churches represent, at best, only the interests of their "flock", at worst only the interests of their "shepherds"

the media landscape in the US, for example, is fully private. so again, at best, that of their readers, a smaller group then the public. at worst, only that of their shareholders or their management. business, the same, and NGO's have a similar issue. they are all... "focused", and no, it's not on the whole public

so in your list the only institution that is supposed to be focusing on the interests of the broadest public is... government

and there, two principles set in: "to the victor, the spoils" and what this article mentions as hyperpartisanship

so they all do at least try to create maximum value... just not for all of the people. only their own

SwaziRed's picture

Ask yourself this:

Who will gain by convincing you that hard facts and ignorant conjecture have equal weight?

GreatUncle's picture

Your fucked, either party can now state "fake news" and it goes like this.

Fake news this, fake news that the MSM shout.

You are having a debate over anything ... sky is blue or the sky is red two opposing points.

Either person can now shout because of all the fake news ... you been readign too much fake news mwhahahaha.

No way back, the fake news agenda the MSM have been using and has been so comical in conditioning the population against all news... Any lefty shouting something ... you whisper fake news mate you need to go check your sources.

Fake news and the concept thereof is the red pill ... oh my.

Ghordius's picture

OT, but not too much: do you have an opinion about the British "Tabloid" newspapers in regard to "Fake News"? I'd be delighted to read

Insurrector's picture

I was going to mention News of the World, but of course that high class Murdoch property was forced to close because employees of the newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories.

Interesting how Murdoch, the King of Illegal Leaks, controls Faux News and WSJ.

Offthebeach's picture

If you had to have some ditches hand dug, and one company had guys in wheelchairs, breathing with oxygen bottles, and another company had young, strapping farm boys, which would you choose?


Reporters are dumb, low watt collage graduates of sub trade school disciplines .  


Why listen to or read them when via the internet you can get information from real experts?

Further, MSM "news" is not to inform but to capture clicks of the remaining "customers".  The bottom 20%.-35%.  The Jerry Springer-ization of "news'.  CNN and the rest are doing the right thing.  They know who their audience is.  Their employees fit their audience.   80% of tv is watched by the bottom 20%.  Tv is for nursing homes, welfare, unemployed.  Real people are at work and have lives. 


Insurrector's picture

You lost me right off the bat - "If you had to have some ditches hand dug." 

Hey bubba, they have trenchers these days that you can rent at Home Depot - or your local building contractor supply house.  Seriously - you can Google if you don't believe me.

"Reporters are dumb, low watt collage graduates of sub trade school disciplines"

Collage, huh?  I remember cutting up old National Geographic magazines to make mine.  Did you go to school Bubba for the 3 Rs?

brushhog's picture

CNN has got to be the most ridiculous thing on television these days. Even the weather has an anti-Trump spin.

Insurrector's picture

IMHO Fox beats them all.  Their kool aid is always dark red.  Fox News is more like extreme right opinion, buttressed by a smattering of alternative facts.

The fact that so many Republican candidates and operatives have been employed or paid by Fox seems to be lost on the masses.  Not a smoking gun mind you, but it certainly reflects their extreme right slant.  They have a tendency to cut out any in the herd that wanders to close to being moderate so as not to change the acoustics of the echo chamber.

George Will was their last credible commentator.  Shepard Smith will be the next one cut.

No one seems to talk about Murdoch - guess because he is so powerful that the media is afraid of him. He controls a lot of media outlets - Fox and WSJ is just his American jewels.

galant's picture

         The Greek philosopher Aristotle noted that it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. He was arguing for an open mind, to not blindly accept or reject what we are told, to suspend immediate judgement.

           But now 2,300 years later the media of most persuasions increasingly appeals only to those who want their prejudices confirmed with hyper-partisan opinions.

           For example, even here on Zero Hedge it is not uncommon to read rants against Tyler Durden for publishing blogs or comments which fly in the face of the popular views of the website contributors. Yet often the ensuing arguments are enlightening and entertaining.

           As Sun Tzu advises:

            “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

shadow54's picture

Fake news is not just Elvis Found Alive on Mars stuff. Corporate media runs it as a program. Like the Russian scandal stuff. News articles have scant or no facts and unidentified or untrustworthy sources. Then all of the opinion pieces follow based on the shabby news report, and here Bias is taken on a trip to Absolute Fantasy Land.

A Classic Piece of Fake News and Fake Opinion is, MICHAEL MOORE TO TRUMP: VACATE YOU RUSSIAN TRAITOR. Where Moore posts a Twitter piece based on Trump/Russia fake news "What part of "vacate you Russian traitor" don't you understand? We can do this the easy way (you resign), or the hard way (impeachment)." and numerous news sites report it as a news article with Moore's rant and smear stuff on Trump's people to create the image of them as Russian moles.

This sort of news is why people now read big media and watch it but don't necessarily believe it. It is all spin from the masters of the matrix.

Dien Bien Poo's picture

Ok so theres fake news stories out there. But why should we believe the Orange ones version of events? Its not like hes never lied....

Dead Indiana Sky's picture

Researching the truth can be tedious work at times, and people are lazy.  Sift through it all, and figure it out.  It would be nice to just be able to stare at the TV and learn about our world.  Not everything can be convenient.

Insurrector's picture

Be sure to cross reference too!