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【Speech】Fake News, Real Problem: The Case of Singapore

The Taiwan Institute for Governance and Communication Research (TIGCR) invites Professor Edson C Tandoc Jr. deliver a public speech on "Fake news, Real problem: The Case of Singapore".

About the Speech

The worsening problem with disinformation, aggravated by the influx of fake news online, has prompted institutions around the world to take action. Governments have initiated legislation. News organizations have come together to fight fake news. Other organizations have launched and funded fact-checking initiatives. Technology companies, blamed for the rise of fake news, have also taken action by removing accounts that spread fake news, among other initiatives. And yet ultimately the root of the problem is: What makes people believe in fake news? The answer, unfortunately, is far from simple.

Studies have argued that the reach of fake news, at least during the US presidential elections in 2016, was limited, with only a fraction of the population exposed to fake news posts (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017; Nelson & Taneja, 2018). But for these people who have been fooled by fake news, the effects are real: For example, a man opened fire at a pizzeria in Washington DC on 4 December 2016 after reading a viral and false conspiracy story that identified the pizzeria as the site of an underground child sex ring ran by then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager, John Podesta (Lopez, 2016). In India, fake news posts spreading on the messaging app WhatsApp have been blamed for numerous lynching and murders of people wrongfully accused of or misidentified as kidnappers (Frayer, 2018; Safi, 2018). In a small town in Mexico, a 43-year-old man and his 21-year-old nephew were burned to death by a mob responding to a rumour that spread through WhatsApp about child abductors roaming the village (Martinez, 2018). Such unfortunate cases make it imperative for us to understand what makes people believe is false information.

Drawing from the results of various studies conducted at Nanyang Technological University, this presentation identifies factors that make some individuals prone to believing in fake news. First, a series of focus group interviews and national surveys revealed how Singapore residents define fake news and how they respond to fake news. Second, a series of experiments tested the effects of source credibility as well as popularity cues on the extent to which individuals believe in fake news. Third, a content analysis of fake news articles also identified patterns in terms of language and structure. By bringing these studies together, this presentation identifies the combination of source, audience, and message factors that enable the spread of fake news.

Author Bio

Edson C. Tandoc Jr. (Ph.D., University of Missouri) is an Associate Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His research focuses on the sociology of message construction in the context of digital journalism. He has conducted studies on the construction of news and social media messages.

His studies about influences on journalists have focused on the impact of journalistic roles, new technologies, and audience feedback on the various stages of the news gatekeeping process. For example, he has done some work on how journalists use web analytics in their news work and with what effects. This stream of research has led him to study journalism from the perspective of news consumers as well, investigating how readers make sense of critical incidents in journalism and take part in reconsidering journalistic norms; and how changing news consumption patterns facilitate the spread of fake news.

  • Topic: Fake News, Real Problem: The Case of Singapore
  • Speaker: Edson C. Tandoc Jr. (Associate Professor, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
  • Chair: Trisha T. C. Lin (Professor, Associate Dean, College of Communication, Chair, Department of Radio and Television, and Chair, International Research and Collaboration Committee, TIGCR, NCCU, Taiwan)
  • Date: 2019/12/04 (Wednesday) 12:10-14:00
  • Place: Room 270104, 1F, General Building, NCCU

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