Social Media, the modern-day propaganda tool for the Far-right

Social Media, the modern-day propaganda tool for the Far-right

Social media has always been hailed as a tool for those with little to no voice or representation within society and it can definitely aid pro-democracy movements on occasion, unfortunately overall it gives the far-right parties and authoritarians an advantage. These platforms, once seen as an ally to democracy, have progressively become its enemy.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

It is easier for misinformation to be spread on social media than it is to correct it, it is also easier to ignite social divisions than it is to repair them. The very nature of how we engage in social media helps the far-right, authoritarian factions to wear away at the foundations of our democratic systems and even give themselves a straightforward route to gaining authority. This can be seen recently in the 2018 Presidential elections in Brazil where far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro was part of a well-funded campaign that spread false information about his political opponents, this proved extremely effective as it was difficult for his opponents or the press to discredit or disprove these false allegations. This spreading of false information could be seen throughout the numerous WhatsApp messages that were sent throughout the election campaign, The Guardian conducted a survey of viral WhatsApp messages spread throughout 296 group chats and found that “approximately 42% of right-wing items contained information found to be false by factcheckers. Less than 3% of the left-wing messages analysed in the study contained externally verified falsehoods.” This again shows how instrumental the spreading of political misinformation is tactically for far-right political candidates.

Democratic Recession was a term created by political scientist Larry Diamond and can be described as “the decline of liberal democracy or the strength of democratic institutions in countries that formerly had a higher level of freedom and democracy.” This is a result of right-wing candidates who manipulate information on social media to get elected and then force their views on others. None have done this in a more prolific manner than current US President Donald Trump. Trump, has made over 20,000 false claims since he was elected and again the same problem arises. Despite the mainstream media debunking his claims right-wing outlets spread these lies or manufactured supporting evidence on social media, where it is seen as fact in the eyes of the president’s core supporters. Researchers from Princeton University and New York University found that conservatives were more than four times as likely to share fake news on Facebook as liberals. As a result of misinformation being spread and acknowledged as fact by a portion of the population Trump was able to convince certain voters that Hillary Clinton was involved in the alleged “pizzagate” incident, which helped him to win his Presidential bid over a far more experienced opponent. Furthermore, since his recent loss in the Presidential election he has continued this trend by making baseless claims of voter fraud. However at the time of writing 35 of his 36 legal cases claiming voter fraud have been dismissed in court.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez playing Among Us on Twitch

Despite the far-right utilising social media far more efficiently than the left wing, there is still hope. As we have seen social media can be used as a powerful tool for the left-wing and pro-democracy groups. A recent example is the use of streaming platform Twitch by progressive politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who streamed herself playing the popular game Among Us with several high-profile Twitch streamers, with at one point over 430,000 people watching her stream. She streamed with these social media stars in order to encourage voter turnout in the upcoming Presidential election as she knows young people often feel disenfranchised by politics and this was a good way to connect with many first time voters. So far, this tactic seems to have worked as in almost every state the turnout for the youth vote has increased dramatically. Another great example of a liberal politician effectively using social media is Bernie Sanders, Sanders already has a large following on social media and has held collaborations with celebrities like Cardi B. These are important as many Millennials and those in Gen Z preferred Sanders as a Presidential candidate over Biden so naturally one of the questions asked by Cardi B was why the youth should still vote for Biden and the Democrats. Furthermore, platforms like TikTok have been of great importance since the beginning of civil unrest and protests within the US to help showcase support for several causes such as Black Lives Matter Rallies. More recently TikTok has again proven to be an extremely effective social media tool for younger generations to showcase their support for causes as seen in the recent protests in Poland over the Government’s reversal on abortion rights. There have been plenty of videos showing the protests in Warsaw and other cities throughout the country.

Former Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders with Pop Star Cardi B

Overall, we can see that social media has an ever-growing role to play within politics and this will only increase due to the continued distrust in traditional media. While currently far right politicians are more able to use their social media platforms to spread misinformation to be divisive and polarising which in turn helps them to get elected, this is mainly due to what I would call “traditional social media” such as Facebook which is populated with older generations who are typically more conservative politically. However, as time goes on I believe this will change as younger generations are better informed than their predecessors and with the help of more modern social media such as TikTok are able to communicate from a more liberal perspective.

Joel Currie is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter

DRINKING ALCOHOL PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19

DRINKING ALCOHOL PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19

Sadly, it’s doesn’t. But the headline caught your eye didn’t it? 

You might have heard the term ‘Fake news’ being thrown around lately, or perhaps from Donald Trump, as it is one of his favourite phrases! Fake news is essentially misinformation that is spread online as real news. I suppose you could say its big news right now as there has been a significant amount of it during this pandemic, however with so much media circulating about COVID-19, how do we know what is true anymore?

According to a survey by Statista (2020), almost 64% of UK respondents came across a false story at least once a day in the space of a week during September. In my opinion, this is absolutely crazy, how is fabricated news allowed to be shared across platforms millions of us use? 

A new study by MIT in 2018 found that false news spreads more rapidly on the social platform Twitter than real news does and not because of any algorithms or technology, it’s all down to users retweeting it and sending it onto their pals. No doubt this has increased over the past two years!  

Spreading inaccurate information online is more dangerous than we think, throughout the pandemic I personally have stumbled across many fake news articles and seen plenty of users sharing it across networks like Facebook. In concerning and tough times like this, reading a headline such as “Coronavirus is a Hoax” (I WISH!!) can have a massive impact on someone’s mental health if they believe this, especially when they are being kept from seeing loved ones and being told to stay inside. 

We have seen the impact fake news has had on political campaigns in America back in 2016, where it has been used and abused to target vulnerable people and influence their political opinions, which is why I feel more needs to be done about how to combat it – If this comes as a surprise to you, I would advise watching The Great Hack on Netflix!

So, what are social media platforms doing about it?

We use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter every day, so surely these big tech companies have a part to play in stopping the spread of false news? Well, they have previously turned a blind eye to the matter however, recently many have been taking action.

Facebook has vowed that they will continue to use fact checkers to review misinformation and then remove the fake news or perhaps sometimes, conspiracy theories. For example, at the start of the year when coronavirus began to spread, Facebook focused on removing false stories surrounding cures and treatment for the virus including “Avoid spicy food to avoid infection”– which was obviously not true. They also blocked certain hashtags on their platform Instagram which were linked to the topic. 

YouTube also took it upon themselves to remove any videos that include misleading information about vaccines and that contradict local health authorities like the NHS or World Health Organisation (WHO). 

And like I mentioned before, fake news has become the centre of previous election campaigns, and recently Twitter banned accounts which had been tweeting spam in relation to Donald Trump, which is against Twitters rules. 

What can WE do?

  1. Do a quick search on Google or Twitter. By doing this you can see if it’s came from a trusted source or if anyone else has questioned it. For any stories regarding COVID-19, only listen to health organisations like the NHS or WHO.
  2. If you’re unsure if a social media post is fake news or not, don’t like, comment or share it – this can increase your chances of seeing more fake news as social media platforms like to show us more of what we interact with. The more engagement a post like this receives, the more likely it’s seen as something relevant. 
  3. If it does in fact turn out to be fake news, report it! You can do this on any social media site, the World Health Organisation has published a great guide on their website which can help you do this.
  4. And lastly, just think before you share! Sometimes it can be hard to resist a click bait headline but try get used to reading trusted sources instead of what Sandra might have shared to her 200 followers (No offence to any Sandra’s out there) …

To sum it up, I think it’s scary to see how fast false information spreads these days and, in my opinion, it’s ruining people’s opinions on real journalism as they jump to believe the false article they just read on Facebook rather than the actual facts. There is definitely more work to be done here by social media platforms to stop the spread of fake news but for now, we can only look out for the warning signs!

Shauna McKillop is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She spent her placement year at The Tomorrow Lab in Belfast, where she continues to work as a junior digital marketing executive. Shauna can be found on: LinkedIn and Twitter.

PRETTY LITTLE THING’S PRETTY BIG PR DISASTER

I am sure if you are a fashion follower of any sort, you will have seen that Pretty Little Thing products have been exposed….

The fast fashion clothing company Pretty Little Thing rarely ever has many scandals from what I have seen. They seem to just be constantly building on their reigning empire, gaining more celebrity collaboration, more customers and ultimately more money… until recently, when their empire hit a bump in the road, when they were subjected to a case of FAKE NEWS.

A Facebook post was published by a PLT customer who had a look through the company terms and conditions on their US website to find this…

Image may contain: text
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1430300487135168&set=a.281899951975233&type=3&theater

This post went viral, now having approximately 25k shares on Facebook and thousands and thousands of Twitter threads discussing the issue. 


When I first seen this my instant reaction was shock…I couldn’t understand why a massive company like Pretty Little Thing would have chemicals in their products that were known cancer, reproductive harm and birth defects, and why it was just point blank in the terms and conditions without anyone knowing of this before. 

Disgust spread across the Internet, with many people putting up their own social media posts expressing their concerns and spreading the word to ‘Boycott Pretty Little Thing’. 

However, others were quick to fight back and defend Pretty Little Thing. Those who looked further into the statement within the terms and conditions discovered the truth. 

The truth 

The truth is that this warning was required due to a new law in the California, called Proposition 65, which requires all companies in California must provide warnings of ‘significant exposure’ to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm. However, it is highly unlikely that PLT clothing could contain sufficient amounts of these chemicals to cause harm at all. 

In fact, it is not the only clothing company that has used this warning, ASOS and Fashion Nova also have this warning within their company terms and conditions. 

FAKE NEWS 

Due to the first post going viral, many other customers and non-customers of Pretty Little Thing now had a negative outlook on the company, so much so that they posted about it on their social media and so on so forth, until thousands of people now thought that their PLT purchases were going to cause them harm, and so were suggesting that people do not purchase from the company any more. 

This lead to many articles posted containing FAKE NEWS. 

Fake news can have irreversible effects to organisations, it can change consumers image of a company, it can make them lose custom and can reduce their stock price. 

Public opinion is vital for companies in general, but especially online brands, like PLT, who build their reputation up online and gain a following of customers who have a high impression of the brand. 

Fake news can destroy this reputation, and if the brand is not strong enough, can also bring down the company. 

Luckily enough, I don’t think this has had much of a significant effect to the Pretty Little Thing brand as they have continued to issue statements claiming that their products do not contain sufficient amounts of lead to cause the stated effects, however this may have planted a seed of criticism into the heads of consumers who may then go and shop at a competitor brand that does not have such warnings in their T&Cs. 

For me, as a shopping addict…I can safely say that I will be purchasing from Pretty Little Thing again without any hesitation. 

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.

WAGatha Christie

What we can learn from wags at war.

In case you’ve been living under a rock these past few days, I’m going to bring you up to speed in what has become a bigger debate than BREXIT!

Basically, Queen Bee wag Coleen Rooney took to social media to expose long-term (or should I say ex) friend and fellow wag Rebekah Vardy, for selling stories to the Sun newspaper. To cut a long story short, Rooney concocted an elaborate plan by creating ‘fake news’ stories and blocking everyone bar Vardy’s account to see if they would infiltrate into the media…low and behold, they did! See below tweet:

SG1

In what can only be described as a plot like that of literary legend, Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (which has now coined what I believe to be the greatest pun of 2019) or an EastEnders’s ‘who dunnit???’, it has left the UK divided.

Rebecca Vardy, who is heavily pregnant (which will become relevant later on) has denied all accusations made against her. Once again, she took to social media to release a statement wishing that Coleen should have called her if she had these suspicions and discussed the matter privately.

This nicely leads on to the point I’m trying to make about privacy and the ‘exposing’ culture that has become a toxic cesspit in a modern era.

Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and has become a crux in many people’s day to day lives. Although I have tried (forced myself) to see the positives in using social media, the only advantages I could come up with are career related. For example, being proficient in social media platforms is now a highly desired skill on any CV and could ultimately lead to a career in digital marketing. However, wasn’t SOCIAL media invented as a tool to connect with people around the world, stay in contact with long-distance friends or relatives, develop friendships and connections?

Don’t get me wrong I’d be lying if I too didn’t take a leaf out of Coleen’s book and put my sleuthing skills to use (You have too don’t lie, ‘creeping’ counts). However, what concerns me is the increasing need to publicly expose people which in turn has greater knock on effects for everyone involved. Ultimately, I believe this story to be an example of why the novelty of social media has worn off and when it boils down to it a major contributor towards a failed friendship.

We should all now be aware that anything we put online is never fully private…we’ve sat through enough lectures to know this by now. Therefore, I believe we can learn from the sensationalism surrounding this story even if they are both high profile people (even if one is married to Wayne Rooney…) compared to myself or you.

SG2Rebekah Vardy left, Coleen Rooney right. Bottom left, me watching the drama unfold.

Although many people have taken to show their support for Coleen, it has also raised the question as to whether or not Rebekah should be as cruelly attacked by the public and tabloids given she is heavily pregnant. I’ve decided not to take sides, I’m merely a spectator using this purely as a form of escapism and for my love of memes. However, having said this I would not wish this upon anyone. The level of ‘trolling’ Rebekah has received I can not even begin to imagine.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that the SOCIAL element of social media is more or less non-existent in today’s society. In fact, according to RSPH’s (Royal Society for Public Health) 2017 report, ‘Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing’, concluded startling figures including:
• Rates of anxiety and depression in young people have risen 70% in the past 25 years.
• Cyber bullying is a growing problem with 7 in 10 young people saying they have experienced it.
• Around 70% of 18-24 years olds would consider having a cosmetic surgical procedure.

New legislations being rolled out to ‘reduce’ this e.g. Instagram ‘hiding’ the number of likes a celebrity receives or Facebook continually filtering negative content. However, I believe this to be of no use and instead we need to look at it in a smaller context. I know I’m never going to achieve 1m likes so what use is this legislation to me? Yes, we all have the option to block, report or unfriend someone in the hopes of removing any negativity or simply the old out of sight out of mind trick. But Coleen didn’t do that did she? Coleen didn’t make THAT phone call? So why should we?

I’ll tell you why, save yourself the drama!

SG3Rebekah Vardy’s twitter response.

Like my blog post this story will probably be old news. However, the implications of a story like this upon impressionable teenagers or simply copycats could be detrimental. I don’t want to end my blog all doomy and gloomy so let me challenge you this. Next time you use social media, think about why you’re using it, whether or not you’re actually being SOCIABLE and if someone’s bothering you whether or not it’s worth having a conversation or even a phone call…

Case closed.

SG4My favourite meme

Please let me know your thoughts on this. Do you agree? Who’s side are you taking?

You can find me at,

It’s……….Susan’s Greer’s account.

Joking.

Susan Greer is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusanGr15481563
and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-greer-527b79165/

A Series of Unfortunate Events ft. Meghan Markle

Words I associate with a Princess;

‘compassionate’, ‘selfless’, ‘humble’

Words associated with Meghan Markle;

fake’, ‘hypocrite’, ‘manipulating monster’

I might be basing my associations off the entire range of Disney princess movies but we all know these malicious words should not define a member of the Royal family. These are only a few of the negative comments that circulate the internet and feature in the news headlines when you come across reports on the Duchess. Meghan Markle has fallen victim to an endless amount of mistreatment since she started dating Prince Harry in 2016. Upon scanning the internet, I even found that a rather infuriated member of the public who quite clearly has it in for Meghan, has taken to Urban Dictionary and coined the term ‘Markled’, defining her as; ‘someone who ghosts you once you have no more benefit’ I mean, come on? This girl doesn’t even know her! And it doesn’t end there.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Meghan%20Markle

As you would expect, becoming a royal family member makes you vulnerable to heightened publicity and speculation. However, Meghan was already used to the fame having left behind her career in acting and being notorious for her role as Rachel Zane on Suits. Watching her go from the fictional role of lawyer to embracing the doors of Kensington Palace holding the title of ‘Princess’ in real life, I have to admit, it was strange but remarkable at the same time.

FH11

It’s no surprise when you pop onto the news you will see Meghan Markle appear under ‘trending’ or latest stories. Whether it is discussing serious recent affairs or that she managed to shut the car door by herself (You’re doing amazing sweetie!) you’ll read it all. Tabloids take advantage of her background, race and personality to relentlessly bully her, sharing inaccurate information and feral commentary, disregarding all human costs. She faces immense scrutiny all the time. Does she deserve this? No human being does. What would the media talk about if Harry and Meghan never met?

FH10

In the latest episode of the Markle dramas, Meghan is in the process of suing the publisher of Mail On Sunday for publishing a handwritten letter she had sent to her estranged father. With the endless propaganda she has faced over the past three years, I don’t blame her. There is only so much a person can deal with when continually being attacked by powerful forces.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/oct/01/meghan-sues-mail-on-sunday-for-publishing-letter-to-her-father

Harry spoke out about the recent actions-sharing on behalf of Meghan and himself; “There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been.” The hurt and anger transmit out of Harry’s words, only making you sympathise with their suffering and understanding why they are taking this action. As many of you would probably agree, the media’s main focus should turn to Prince Andrew, but hey that’s a raunchy topic for another day!

FH6

The majority of backlash comes from people who have never known Meghan on a personal level. A recent release of a trailer from 60 minutes Australia features Katie Hopkins who embraces the nickname ‘Biggest B*tch in Britain’ (wouldn’t be wrong there), she is a woman who is unquestionably racist and xenophobic. Katie is someone who is not afraid to share her honest opinions and does not take into consideration feelings, causing quite a lot of controversy. In this documentary she completely degrades Meghan; “Meghan Markle is the biggest hypocrite there is”, “Abdicate. Off you go” and “a nobody” who “wears bad clothes”. Who goes so low as to criticise somebody’s clothing style? Her insensitivity is perhaps what continues to get her work in the industry but anything that escapes from her mouth should be dismissed.

Meghan only tries her best in being a humanitarian, shining an important light on many issues from gender violence to poverty and education. Recent events show the Duke and Duchess’ tour to Africa undertaking a series of public engagements. From meeting female leaders in South Africa, tackling violence against women, visiting Bishop Desmond Tutu and paying tributes to Uyinene Mrwetyana. For years she has been an advocate for women and girls’ rights-an incredibly powerful movement to be a part of and something that should be associated with the Princess opposed to the unpleasant hatred she receives.

FH7

Meghan is the also the subject of frequent conspiracy-led and racist attacks on social media sites. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram host multiple accounts which are dedicated to sharing abusive theories about Meghan, including speculation her pregnancy is faked. Even in times when she is displaying her selflessness and caring nature it only attracts more backlash from the public. On her visit to One25 – a sex worker charity, Meghan used bananas to write thoughtful messages; ‘You are strong’, ‘You are special’. However it was only used as ammunition by internet trolls for racist tweets who devised the term “banana baroness”. One Twitter account in particular uses a photo shopped image of Meghan eating a banana as its icon.

https://news.sky.com/story/trolling-of-meghan-how-duchess-is-abused-over-race-and-pregnancy-11696606

Despite attacks like these Meghan still remains to glow, clearly she is a strong individual. The hatred she receives from trolls hidden behind computer screens is disgusting, something I, personally would not be able to deal with. It is unprecedented to anything that I’ve ever seen before – fuelled by racism and negative media coverage-unfortunately it does not appear to be stopping any time soon. So much for her fairy-tale ending.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex Visit South Africa

 

Fionnuala Hegarty is a Bsc Communication Management and PR Student at Ulster University and can be found at: Twitter -@fionnualaheg ; LinkedIn -https://www.linkedin.com/in/fionnuala-hegarty-108127160/ ; and Instagram -https://www.instagram.com/fionnualahegarty/

 

 

The Clare Balding & Saga magazine saga

If you have even the slightest bit of interest in sport, chances are that you are familiar with Clare Balding the sports presenter who works for both the BBC and Channel 4. Balding’s ubiquitous sports coverage was memorably lampooned by British comedian Tracey Ullman earlier this year in a sketch that seemed eerily accurate. 

 

Balding presents a wide range of events from the Olympic Games to Crufts (the world’s largest dog show) on Channel 4. She is one of these presenters who always seems to be on television. She appears to be someone who has a genuine love and passion for what she does. She comes across as unassuming and approachable on any broadcast that she makes. This is why I was absolutely mystified at an article that was published in The Guardian on Saturday, where a journalist claimed that Balding was a controlling diva who wanted the final say over an article that was to be published in Saga magazine. In the article “How BBC star Clare Balding nicked my byline” Ginny Dougary lamented the fact that Balding insisted that she have final say over what was included in the article. “Who is this insecure diva who does not know better about what should be an essential divide between journalism and public relations? It must be one of those Hollywood actors, you might think, represented by aggressively image-controlling agents. Well, it is disappointing to report that it is one of the nation’s darlings and a champion of other women, particularly right now in the battle for equal pay at the BBC. Yes, it’s all-round good egg Clare Balding.”

As all good PR students know, there is a divide between PR and journalism, or at least there should be. What interested me about this article is the fact that previously I would have thought nothing negative about Clare Balding, now I am not so sure. The seed of doubt has been planted. It seems crazy to me that what is essentially a fluff piece (my apologies to journalists but unless you are a sort of Lynn Barber type interviewer, that is how they come across, but if they help you stay afloat in your chosen career by all means carry on) merits such rigorous protection.

Apparently, one of the main problems that Balding had about the article was that it focused too much on her sexuality. “The next day, I receive an email from the editor, Katy Bravery, apologising but adding: “Clare and her agent have complained that there is way too much about her being gay in the interview, and I have to say I agree.”  Now here is the thing, it could be that Balding spoke at length about her sexuality to this journalist, however upon reading the article felt that it was not doing enough to promote what she really wanted to talk about, her new children’s book. Balding is very clear about her sexuality in her daily life but could it be that she just didn’t want it to be mentioned within this particular article? I don’t really understand why Dougary seems so fixated on Balding’s sexuality, could it be that Balding inadvertently said something that she wished to be kept “off the record” and realised that this might be included in the article. Maybe Balding herself thought that it was not information that the readers of Saga magazine would be interested in. Is Balding within her rights to retract some things that she has said over the course of the interview or not?

Here is the real issue though, the article goes on to mention that Balding has clearly added quotes to the interview, which the journalist was previously unaware of. Alarm bells should be going off by now, Balding’s job is to answer the questions she was asked, not to suddenly decide after a while that she now has something better to say.  A journalist should have the final say not the interviewee, a journalist’s job is to scrutinise power after all. Does an interview with a celebrity do that though? Are they a clear opportunity to scrutinise someone’s position or are they simply a PR exercise? There is far too much emphasis nowadays on what celebrities have to do and say.  Each article or pre-recorded chat show interview seems the same. If you want to gain a real insight into how a celebrity thinks or feels then you need to talk to them one on one. Average people such as you and me do not get this opportunity though, so instead we turn to our magazine articles and chat show interviews desperately wanting to relate to these celebrities. We want to believe that their interviews on Graham Norton et al are real, unrehearsed, spur of the moment events.

However, do journalists really believe that each interview that they have with a celebrity is not a carefully constructed PR exercise? Do we the readers really believe that? Think of Hollywood’s stars of the Golden Age, everything was controlled. There were no photos of actors falling out of nightclubs. These stars were “perfect” supposedly.  Has anyone ever seen a bad photo of Lauren Bacall or Grace Kelly in their heyday for example? Call me old-fashioned, but I fail to see how this could lead to accusations of “fake news”. The interview would have to be newsworthy in the first place, celebrity interviews are not the most important thing that someone will read over the course of a day.

I am going to end this long-winded post by saying that both Saga magazine and Clare Balding have come out strongly denying Dougary’s claims. However, the damage has been done for me. Now every year when I watch Crufts I will be thinking is Clare Balding actually nice or is she a controlling diva? It’s highly ironic that by trying to control this interview, Balding has damaged her brand for many people including myself. I am sorry if this comes across as a rant against objective journalism, it is not meant to be. Impartiality in journalism has never been more important, I just want all parties involved in celebrity interviews to acknowledge the unspoken truth, that these type of interviews are a type of PR exercise. Celebrity interviews are where public relations and journalism collide, like it or not. Maybe it’s time we started to have a look at how we view the journalistic merit of such interviews in the first place.

 

Catherine Leonard is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Political Lobbying at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @CLeonard1212

Political PR in the world of fake news and social media

Political PR in the world of fake news and social media

In recent days, US President-elect Donald Trump has had to battle unverified allegations which have derived from a leaked dossier created by a Washington-based opposition research firm, branding them “fake news”. Yet despite the document’s claims being wholly unverified, the story remained at the top of Facebook’s algorithm, and has led to a growing amount of media coverage clouding the public sphere.

trump-tweet

Fake news is a collection of fabricated stories and strategic narratives which are increasingly influencing public and political discourse. With 62% of US citizens saying they get their news from Facebook, fake news poses a threat to politicians trying to influence public opinion. For example, during the 2016 US election, fake news overtook mainstream news in terms of social media engagement.

facebook-election

(Source: Buzzfeed (2016) Total Facebook engagements for to 20 election stories. Available from: https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.bxxLnNkmKn#.salzVDKP9V )

So what does this mean for modern political PR practice?

With fake news taking centre stage, it shows how social media has facilitated “Chinese whispers” of sorts, allowing people to share stories like “Pope Francis Endorses Donald Trump for President”, and showing just how little “fact checking” comes in to play. Despite the impact of fake news on public action still being undetermined, it has the potential to fuel some dangerous rumours, and lead to a misinformed public and an upheaval of the current media system. If people lose their trust in all news stories and outlets as a result of constantly being bombarded with fake news, this will render earned and paid media placements pointless and valueless, as they will no longer resonate with a growingly suspicious public.

As the ever-expanding and ever-complex media system creates an obscuring trellis around key issues and demands, more and more of the public are relying on social media for news stories, and are not differentiating real news from fake news. It is therefore increasingly necessary for politicians, public figures, and organisations alike to utilise public relations in order to disseminate and distinguish the “real story”, and to protect their image.

social-media-culture

When politicians and other public figures are being derailed constantly the rise of fake news, and an invasive and powerful media agenda trying to verify the stories, PR and spin tactics may become a necessary evil. In a media environment of accelerated information flow, political figures have less control than with older media forms. This intensification of media attention puts pressure on politicians to communicate a variety of messages quickly, and thus an increased reliance on spin is a reaction to the need to maximise electoral support, engage a wide range of publics, and connect them through an alternative media filter, allowing politicians and public figures to communicate particular messages and to break through the media monolith.

 

References:

http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/

Khaldarova, I. and Pantti, M. (2016) Fake News: The narrative battle over the Ukrainian conflict. Journalism Practice, 10 (7), 891-901.

McNair, B. (2004) PR must die: spin, anti-spin and political public relations in the UK, 1997-2004. Journalism Studies, 5 (3), 325-338.

http://www.mediabullseye.com/2016/12/fake-news-poses-a-real-problem-for-pr/

Moloney, K. and Colmer, R. (2001) Does Political PR Enhance or Trivialise Democracy? The UK General Election 2001 as Contest between Presentation and Substance. Journal of Marketing Management, 17 (9-10), 957-968.

Moloney, K. (2006) Rethinking Public Relations. Second Edition. London: Routledge.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.bxxLnNkmKn#.salzVDKP9V

 

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94