Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Communications

First Advisor

Dr. Dave Ozmun

Second Advisor

Dr. Deborah Root

Third Advisor

Dr. Margaret Garrett

Abstract

In the 2016 election, fake news was a real, and well-publicized, story. Foreign bodies were accused of meddling in America's political system by spreading fake stories through widely used social media outlets such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, and these stories reportedly garnered a wide audience. According to Facebook itself, Russian bot-generated fake news reached 126 million users -- almost half of the U.S. population.

There was much outcry and uproar about the fake news conundrum, with advocates and activists on all sides pointing a finger one way or the other. Many pontificated on whether these stories affected the outcome of the election, and wondered aloud if things would have turned out differently if these stories hadn't been able to reach American voters. Congress even called representative from Facebook, Google, and Twitter to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to address the issue of Russian-generated fake news on their sites, and a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate President Trump's campaign team to determine if it colluded with Russia. One thing to consider though, is whether media giants such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter can legally be held accountable for their part in giving fake news a platform, or are they protected under current statutes as aggregators of content and not producers?

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