On Friday the Newseum will unveil a new exhibit examining the role of fake news in the 2016 presidential election and its impact on society at large. The exhibit materials are located in the News Corporation News History Gallery, which explores major issues confronting journalists today.
Using fake news stories that were seen by hundreds of thousands of people in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, the exhibit shows how nefarious individuals – and governments – use social media to spread lies and misinformation that can sway public opinion and even incite violence.
One of the most infamous false news stories claimed that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump for president. It was seen by nearly 1 million Facebook users and shared more times than any other news story – real or fake – on the election. Another story, pushed by conspiracy theorists and conservative websites, targeted a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor as the site of a child sex trafficking ring run by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Employees at the restaurant received death threats and endured harassment on social media, which culminated in an attack by a man who – intending to investigate the claims – entered the restaurant with an assault rifle and fired it multiple times into the ceiling.
The exhibit also touches on President Trump’s anti-media tirades and his popularization of the term “fake news,” and shows how individuals can be powerful instruments in both spreading and stopping fake news.
As more information surfaces daily about Russia’s role in manufacturing and spreading fake news during the election, the need for savvy news consumers becomes more pronounced. The exhibit includes tips for spotting fake news, taken from NewseumED’s resources on media literacy, which have already been used by thousands of teachers in the United States and are set to be expanded with the help of Facebook.