Dance – Linguistics and disinformation: motivations and solutions for sharing fake news

FORGE is delighted to announce a talk by our upcoming internal speaker: William Dance (Linguistics & English Language). Details of his talk are below:

Linguistics and disinformation: motivations and solutions for sharing fake news

Fake news, intentionally factually incorrect news that is published to deceive and misinform its reader, has become a very prominent issue in the public arena in recent years. It has been estimated that factually un-true stories were shared more than 30-million times during the 2016 U.S. presidential election (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017) and already in 2019, the British government has published a white paper to tackle the spread of disinformation. However, at its core fake news is a contentious issue: should we even use the term ‘fake news’?; is fake news as damaging as people claim it to be?; can anything be done to stop it?

Fake news is a modern name for a very old phenomenon and it has been an issue for centuries, shown by Charles II’s 17th century proclamation “to restrain the spreading of false news, and licentious talking of matters of state and government” (Early English Books Online, 2017). Organisations such as the Department for Agitation and Propaganda in Soviet Russia and the Ministry of Popular Culture in Italy all created fake news under different names during the 20th century and under Hitler’s rule of Germany parts of the press were referred to as the Lügenpresse (literally: lying press). However, it is only in the last five years the term ‘fake news’ has entered our daily lives.

This talk will be a complete beginner’s guide to researching fake news. It will give a history of fake news that will discuss how old the phenomenon is, provide definitions of fake news and will explain why fake news exists. Then, recent seminal works exploring fake news will be discussed as well as the various government reports that are currently being published across the world to tackle fake news. I’ll then go on to give a work-in-progress report of my current research into fake news and give some examples of cursory data analysis that looks at social media users’ motivations and rationales for disseminating fake news online.

Allcott, H. & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211-236.

Donath, J. (1999). Identity and deception in the virtual community. In Communities in Cyberspace. London: Routledge. (pp. 343-359).

Guess, A., Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2018). Selective exposure to misinformation: Evidence from the consumption of fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign. European Research Council, 9.

Hardaker, C. (2013). “Uh…..not to be nitpicky,,,,,but…the past tense of drag is dragged, not drug.”: an overview of trolling strategies. Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict, 1 (1). pp. 57-86.

Rayson, P. (2008). From key words to key semantic domains. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 13(4), 519-549.

1100-1200, Wed 06th Mar, County South B89

All are welcome to attend.