The incentives of fake news


It's about incentives. By exposing lies, fact-checkers impose a cost on dishonest politicians and journalists.

The internet and social media lets people communicate instantly at near zero cost. This allows the truth to spread quicker than ever, but it also means lies spread quick too. The cost of lying is virtually zero, and so there’s an abundance of fake news.

For news organisations facing immense competition on the internet, subscription revenue has dried up and they’ve become dependent on advertising revenue for survival. Can the media report honestly on their advertisers? They can’t afford to. And advertisers have no financial incentive in the accuracy of articles. Due to cost pressures, it also means they resort to pumping out clickbait articles or just publishing whatever PR firms tell them to. This leads to trash journalism.

A user sharing a photo on Twitter. After people realised that the photo was staged, he refused to admit any wrong. did not classify it as false, instead saying it was just "miscaptioned".

Oops! He escaped!

Incentives are at the core of the problem. The way to stop fake news is to impose a cost on lying. Fact-checkers do this by holding journalists and politicians accountable.