If we’re going to fight fake news together, as conservatives and progressives, we have to agree on 1) a definition of fake news and on 2) a set of arbiters that will determine if a news story is fake.
In a post last week, Ari Armstrong argues that any news outlet can produce fake news, even the New York Times. I’d rather say outlets like the New York Times never produces fake news, because when they do it’s by accident, but I gave up on that a while ago and now agree with Armstrong that the definition of “fake news” should focus specifically on the accuracy of a news article, not its source.
That’s the definition embodied in the Fake News Pledge, which defines fake news as “inaccurate information, packaged to look somehow like news.”
This definition should be acceptable to both conservatives, who are skeptical of the New York Times, and progressives, who see look askance at Fox News.
But the sticking point is arbiters. Can conservatives and progressives agree on a way to decide what’s fake news and what isn’t?
Again, the Fake News Pledge offers a compromise.
The Pledge states that if a “news” item on Facebook is “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet, information from my Facebook page will be removed as soon as possible–or detailed reasons for not deleting it will be provided.”
Notice the phrase “respected news outlet” is not defined, so there’s space for progressives and conservatives to rely on different arbiters of truth. And there’s room to reject any arbiter simply by providing an explanation.
What good would this do? Signing the pledge shows a shared commitment to a set of loose ground rules for rational discourse, which is especially needed now on Facebook. The pledge is a statement that facts matter and that people, especially our elected leaders, who toss out dubious facts at least have the obligation to explain why they they think their facts are true.