In a month where fiction writer Stephen King took to Twitter to call President Trump a “fake” president, we look at the buzz word of our time and how it is impacting on news, opinion and even sales.
The news is real. The president is fake.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 9, 2017
Where it all began:
Donald Trump is president of the United States of America, and in his seven months in office, about the only thing he has contributed to the world other than controversy, is coining the phrase “fake news”. Like it or loathe it, the idea of “fake news” is nothing new but the term seems to be here to stay for the time being, as is Trump, it would seem.
“Fake news” consists of the dissemination of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes via traditional print and broadcast news media and / or online via social media. Trump, who has accused the BBC, CNN, and The New York Times, among others, of “fake news”, first used the term publicly back in January 2017 during his first press conference as President-elect when he refused to take a question from CNN.
Despite the term being used in mostly in the political space in the last few months, the internet, and particularly social media sites, has facilitated the spread of ‘fake news’ with virtually no cost in terms of publication and distribution. The internet also perpetuates the “thirst to be first” (which we wrote about back in our March blog) and the “juicier” the gossip, the faster it spreads and the accuracy of the story becomes almost irrelevant.
The same can be said for reviews. With over 68% of millennials trusting online reviews more than they trust traditional television advertisements, fake reviews are rife and it’s sometimes hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In the past week in fact, a London based PR firm were thrown in to the spotlight when an employee posted a fake negative review of a client’s rival on a consumer review site. The company, Flick Electric, came out on top of a consumer poll and then a negative review of them appeared followed shortly by a phone call by the person who made the comment, apologising for the comment and asking for it to be removed. It is unsure if the request was because they made a mistake or because they got caught (their name was attached to the comment) but the fact remains – negative reviews (fake or real) stick and have a massive impact.
While the real cost of mounting a “fake news” campaign has been estimated at approximately, $400,000 (€350,000) according to a recent study published by Trend Micro, the negative impact of a campaign or negative reviews are a little more tricky to establish.
With the statistics quoted earlier that 68% of millennials trust online reviews, and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority claiming that €32 billion a year of UK consumer spending is potentially influenced by online reviews, it may be tempting to post a few positive stories and reviews about your business but it’s not as simple as that. Fake reviews are easier to spot than you might think. Apps like Fakespot are specifically designed to help weed out fake reviews by focusing on “the language utilised by the reviewer, the profile of the reviewer, correlation with other reviewers’ data, and a machine learning algorithm that focuses on improving itself by detecting fraudulent reviews”.
And of course, the other thing to remember is that it’s big risk to run. A genuinely positive review is worth so much more to you and your company than a fake. If you are found out, like the red-faced PR firm mentioned above, it’s just not worth it – for a few reasons:
- Fake reviews can destroy trust.
- Don’t think you can beat the system. Google algorithms will be on to you and you’ll soon find yourself dropping in page rankings pretty rapidly.
- Like these 19 New York based companies, you may be fined.
- Assuming your consumers are not intelligent is not a good idea. It is unlikely that any product/service will have 100% five star reviews – people will probably twig pretty quickly and swiftly move on to something that appears more genuine.
What the future holds; cracking down on faking
Not even the big wigs can escape the fake negative reviews. CNN’s news app has recently been hit with a series of one star reviews on both the Google Play and Apple’s app stores with many of the reviews claiming “CNN is “fake news” and biased against President Donald Trump”.
While 2,000 news outlets are seeking permission from the US Congress for the right to negotiate jointly with Google and Facebook in an effort to combat the spread of “fake news” stories online and on social media, our own RTE announced this week that they are part of a group who are setting out to test a fake news app which will enable reporters to “verify, make sense of and fact check information” by finding connections in large data sets, the work is well and truly underway to fight the wave of fake news and reviews so that we can make choices and decisions in a balanced and genuine manner.
So it looks like we’ve a way to go but in the meantime – our advice – keep it real!