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Kevin Cheng

Professor Colombo

UWRT 1104-007

29 January 2017

Should Fake News Be Illegal in the United States?

Technology has allowed the spread of information to reach the masses quickly and more

efficiently. However, along with the spread of information, a new epidemic has risen: fake news.

From my personal experience and research, I have observed that fake news has become a

worldwide issue, with many countries wishing to take steps to eliminate this problem. Fake

news create confusion, political discourse, and can even cause bodily harm; as it is dangerous

when individuals act on what they believe to be the real news. Although it is protected by the

First Amendment of the Constitution, I believe it should be outlawed or regulated in the United

States, because of the potential threats and dangers it can cause.

To achieve my goal, I have expressed my beliefs on why fake news should be outlawed.

In addition to that, I have also included real-life events that involved fake news, and a proposal

of a few solutions with explanations on how it does not violate the Constitution. The essay will

be divided into three sections: Problem, Solution, and Conclusion. The first section consists of

information about fake news, and contains recent real-life events. This section also explains why

people deliberately put out fake news. The second section consists of potential solutions that

could be employed to curb fake news, along with an analysis of potential problems. I feel these

solutions will come into minimal to no conflict with the Constitution, because they will not fully

ban fake news, thus not violating the Constitution. Lastly, the third section will discuss the

dangers of fake news, and the importance of limiting fake news.


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Problem

Before 2016, fake news had been a minor problem; causing little to no trouble. However,

during the 2016 Presidential Race, fake news exploded all over the web with the inadvertent help

of Facebook and Google. Most of the fake news centered around candidates Hillary Clinton and

Donald Trump. Articles had both positive and negative news about the two candidates, which

supporters and detractors used for or against a specific candidate. In the end, fake news had

caused more uncertainty and confusion towards both candidates. Fake news has also caused the

relationship between two countries to sour.

There was even an article about how Hillary Clinton ran a sex ring at a certain pizzeria,

to which a man took action based on the fake news. The man bought an assault rifle to the

pizzeria, cleared out the restaurant, all in attempt to break up a fake sex ring. The owner and

employees had also received many threats prior to the incident. Hillary Clinton had also been

said to have sold weapons to ISIS, or had helped fund ISIS. It was even said that Pope Francis

endorsed Donald Trump in the Presidential Race. In another event, Pakistans Defense Minister

threatened nuclear war with Israel, due to fake news stating that Israels Defense Minister would

destroy Pakistan if it sent troops to Syria. Imagine that; all it takes is a few misinformed

leaders of nuclear countries, and then it is all-out nuclear war. Although no one was hurt in these

situations, but these events prove how confusing and deadly fake news can be.

So why do people post fake news? The people who post fake news are doing it for the

money. An interesting story gathers a lot of attention, leading to many people visiting the

webpage. Whenever people generate heavy traffic to a webpage, the writer receives money

from automated advertisements, which rewards for internet traffic. One man in Los Angeles

claims he made between $10,000 to $30,000 per month, by running a string of fake news. A
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computer science student from the former Soviet republic of Georgia stated that posting fake

news on Trump was a gold mine, as it generates a large amount of web traffic.

As mentioned before, Facebook and Google have inadvertently helped the spread of fake

news. With 1.79 billion users each month, Facebook completely dwarfs other social media. As a

result, Facebook introduced their News section a few years ago, in the hopes of helping to keep

users informed of world events. However, their good intentions backfired when fake news

exploded in 2016. As more and more fake news was shared, people started to use Google to find

the articles. This led to Facebook deleting many fake news content, and Google banning over

200-and-counting publishers.

Solution

There are a few solutions that could be applied to stop or limit the spread of fake news.

One solution is for news to be published, the publisher should be approved by the United States

government. This way, fake news will not be able to spread, thus preventing unwarranted harm.

Only the real news would be spread via government-approved publishers. Opinion articles

would still be legal, as long it is from an approved publisher. This method does not violate the

Constitution, in the sense that it still allows the freedom of the press without government

interference. However, this method does restrict the freedom of press, as it only allows approved

publishers to spread the news. It also does not stop the fake news originating from foreign

countries being posted on the internet.

If fake news in the United States cannot be banned, then the real news should be marked

with a nationally recognized seal. The seal would only be allowed on articles meant to inform

the public on current or future events, otherwise there will be a fine for misusing the seal. The
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seal would help the real news be distinguished from the fake news, and avoid the confusion and

panic fake news can generate, all while not violating the Constitution. Anything can be written

or published without any restrictions, as this policy is just marking the real news. This method

would be more effective in the United States, as it also distinguishes the real news from any fake

news originating from foreign countries.

If we did not want the government to step in, the next best solution would be to have

search engines and social media networks monitor their systems. Facebook and Google, two of

the biggest firms, have already taken steps towards limiting the flow of fake news. Despite them

taking steps, it is still possible that there is simply too much data to process. After all, most of

the world uses a search engine and/or social media site, with Facebook and Google being the

biggest of them all.

These three solutions are the best ways to limit fake news, without fully violating the

freedom of press and speech. Although the first solution calls for only government-approved

publishers, it also restricts the freedom of press, thus making it a controversial solution. The

second solution would be a more reasonable, logical, and stronger method to limit fake news. It

is controversial-free and does not restrict the freedom of press. The last solution calls for the

search engines and social media firms to be responsible for their own systems. It involves no

government interference, and is controversial-free as well. Since they are companies, the First

Amendment does not apply to the businesses the same way as it does to citizens.

Conclusion

Fake news has become a worldwide epidemic; it is causing harm to people, as believers

of the fake news have taken reckless action on it. Despite causing harm and confusion, people
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will still post fake news, because of the money generated by the web traffic and advertisements.

The most recent fad of fake news revolved around the 2016 Presidential Candidates, causing

widespread confusion and uncertainty. The 2016 Presidential Race also had a hand in causing

the explosion of fake news, due to two (one very) controversial candidates. It also nearly pushed

Pakistan and Israel a step closer to nuclear war with each other.

To stop or limit fake news, I believe the best method is to have the government step in

and establish a set of laws forbidding or restricting the flow of fake news. Depending on how it

is handled, the First Amendment could be under questioning. The best way to ensure that the

First Amendment is not violated, there should be a labeling system for real news. This way,

everyone still has the freedom to publish what they wish, and the fake news will not be confused

with the real news. If fake news is not contained, it has proven it has the potential to start

shootings and even nuclear war.


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Works Cited

Bohn, Kevin, Daniel Allman, and Greg Clark. "Gun-brandishing man sought to investigate fake

news story site, police say." CNN. Cable News Network, 5 Dec. 2016. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.

Holan, Angie Drobnic. "PolitiFact's 2016 Lie of the Year: Fake news." PolitiFact. N.p., 13 Dec.

2016. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.

Wakabayashi, Daisuke, and Mike Issac. "In Race Against Fake News, Google and Facebook

Stroll to the Starting Line." Nytimes. New York Times, 25 Jan. 2017. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.

Westcott, Ben. "Duped by fake news story, Pakistani minister threatens nuclear war with

Israel." CNN. Cable News Network, 26 Dec. 2016. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.