Remnick discussed the surge of fake news – or what he called the “rising tide of bullshit” – during a session at the 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
And while he conceded that this issue is a “politically-charged subject”, Remnick warned it is also a matter which cannot be ignored by brands and agencies, any more than it can by technology companies.
“The truth is, you are all stakeholders in the urgent discussion about fake news, whether you’re an executive at a social-media enterprise or just use social to press a point or further your business; whether you are an advertiser or pursuing advertising; [or] you may even be a lowly creature like a journalist,” he said. (For more detail, read WARC’s exclusive report: The New Yorker’s take on fake news.)
Elaborating on this theme, he suggested the old media universe had problems of “bogusness”, error and bias, but these failings have now taken on very different proportions
“This new mediascape features new perils: Deception powered by speed and ubiquity, with untold consequences,” Remnick told the Cannes audience.
As classified ads moved towards properties like Craigslist, then Google and Facebook hoovered up a growing proportion of brand spending, for example, so news publishers large and small have felt the pinch.
“When the paper in a mid-sized American city folds, who will investigate the corrupt mayor? That’s a question for us to ask,” said Remnick.
Priming this pump of misinformation are a new wave of digital players – including right-leaning sites like Breitbart.com, and Infowars.com – that are “reaching tens and tens of millions” of people, he continued.
And as this material spreads on social media, it benefits from an ecosystem that is “increasingly segmented, effectively filter-bubbled, and utterly alien from the days of yore,” said Remnick.
“Facebook and Twitter ensure direct, unmediated access … And through social media, you can always find like-minded people to amplify your view, or prejudice, or sense of outrage.”
Data sourced from WARC