Based on recent events, the most obvious motivation behind fake news is politics, but in some cases, it’s too obvious. While many articles categorized as fake news involve political stories, it does not mean the objective is political. The real goal might be completely apolitical altogether. However, when there is an unceasing flow of fake news with a uniform agenda, then one cannot rule out the possibility of political motives. Political propaganda is designed to get people to change their mind about their political beliefs or some other opinion. An event occurs, which is processed through someone else’s perception (with all the biases it entails), producing an interpretation of the event.
If another individual was given this description of the event, it would pass through their own perception, but the event would then be “effectively” recovered although how similar this is to the actual event itself is debatable. By changing the perception of events, an actor is able to change the opinion of (some) users to their desired political objectives. Broadly speaking, the above is applicable to any description of public opinion manipulation.
It can be considered a form of cognitive hacking12—except that the modification of a user’s perception is the goal of the operation, not a means for gaining access to a network.There are a nearly infinite number of ways to profit from fake news. The most common method might be the same beast that powers most of the internet: advertising. Fake news sites have gotten very good at directing social media users to their sites. While the descriptions and headlines they use are charitably described as clickbait, it can’t be denied that they work. Some sites that publish misleading information or content considered as fake news sees a significant amount of traffic. Infowars.
com, a site that pushes conspiracy theories, reportedly has the same internet presence (i.e., page views and visitors) as the Chicago Tribune.
Even though the ads on these sites are cheaper on an individual basis than that of regular news sites, the accumulated revenue for these purveyors is significant. Advertising represents only the most obvious method of profiting from fake news, however. It is also possible to attempt to profit from the reaction to fake news. It’s well-known that stock prices can be heavily influenced by Twitter. For example, shares in the American ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Spirit Airlines fell 5% the day after videos of passenger fist fights due to cancelled flights made the rounds on social media.
When United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger from a flight in April 2017, its stock price fell as well. Therefore, it’s no big stretch of the imagination to think that fake news could be used to influence stock prices. This is particularly true for stocks with low prices and those that are infrequently traded, which makes their price easier to manipulate. For more established companies, a campaign could lower the image and reputation of a target company, affecting their earnings and stock price. Simply put, any publicity about a company may have an effect on it as a business.
This may be due to its earnings or its stock price. As a result, the ability to influence public opinion regarding a company can have multiple consequences, very few of which are completely predictable