As Amber Rudd becomes the most senior member of Theresa May’s government to use the term ‘fake news’ publicly, JUS News takes time out to answer the question everyone seems to be asking: what does ‘fake news’ even mean anymore?
With the American election what feels like years behind us, somehow one phrase persists like a bad hangover. The one aspect of Trump’s presidency that we just can’t seem to shake is that overused ‘fake news’ label – and now it seems to be spreading across the Atlantic into UK politics.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd was questioned yesterday morning on ITV’s ‘Peston on Sunday’ on the government’s so-called rejection of the Dubs amendment, the more common name for Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016.
She controversially announced in response to Robert Peston’s questioning on a possible Dubs Amendment backtrack that “the wrong fake news is settling out there.”
The Dubs Amendment was implemented in November last year, requesting the UK take in more migrants, and although suggestions were made that this figure could provide help for up to 3000 people, Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill announced earlier in February that the initiative would stop after receiving 350 migrants.
Rudd thinks the figures are unfair, however, claiming 8,000 children have been settled in the UK in the past year. Sheffield itself has even received government praise after the Office of National Statistics revealed there were 96 refugees resettled in Sheffield in the last year, and 594 have been settled in Yorkshire and Humber since 2015.
But really – when did this become a thing in UK politics?
When asked about his position as labour leader in an interview on BBC Breakfast earlier this month, Jeremy Corbyn said he was ‘surprised the BBC was reporting fake news’.
And even in the past week it has been alleged that Labour have blamed their recent defeat in Copeland on ‘fake news’ surrounding Corbyn’s views on nuclear power.
Many political commentators took to Twitter to have their say on Rudd’s participation in the ‘fake news’ craze, including Nick Robinson:
And his Tweet got some strongly worded responses too…
So what is Rudd trying to achieve?
The term gained popularity during the American elections in November last year, and according to a report by Buzzfeed, more people engaged with fake news outlets than 19 other news outlets combined through the last three months of campaigning.
The interest in ‘fake news’ itself soared in the months after the election, as the phrase became commonplace in the White House and consequently across the Western world:
The phrase was first Tweeted by POTUS Donald Trump in December, as he responded to widespread concern that he would be working on a second job alongside his presidency:
Initially it was intended to mean false information spread across the internet, but in more recent months (and since Donald Trump’s incessant use) it is so widely used there is general uncertainty as to its meaning.
Some critics even claim its only use is as a scapegoat for politicians and high-profile figures to dismiss news they don’t like.
Due to worldwide reliance on social media for news, and the possibility for anyone anywhere to create and distribute stories like never before, the election created a breeding ground for concern about whether what we were reading online was or wasn’t true.
This has lead to an internet crackdown, and earlier this month Facebook revealed its plans to tackle fake news stories in a new update.
So in reality, the phrase ‘fake news’ seems, in politics at least, to have become a parody of itself: what began as a phrase to signpost mistakes and inaccuracies in news reporting has potentially become a way for politicians to discredit news they don’t like the look of.