How journalism business models are fuelling the misinformation ecosystem

While the media demands trust from audiences, business models favour clicks, views and shares, explained James Ball, special correspondent, BuzzFeed UK, at the ‘Fake news: Inside the problem and how to fix it’ panel discussion at City University earlier this week (1 March).

“If we are trying to get loads of display ads and page views, that often means, when it seems to be low-stakes, we run content without checking it,” Ball said, noting that the ecosystem fails to reward publishers who wait to verify content before publishing.

“This makes the media vulnerable to people who want to use mainstream outlets for misinformation to get in.”

For example, a now-seemingly staged video of a woman tearing a wing mirror from a catcaller’s van gained over 79 million views on just the Daily Mail’s Facebook page, and featured on many major news sites including The Sun, Mashable, the Evening Standard and The Telegraph.

If you’d had stopped and waited to verify and check, you’d have missed out on the traffic all-together and got no revenue, so we actually reward running this unchecked footageJames Ball, BuzzFeed UK

However, the content was not verified by Viral Thread, the page that originally uploaded the content, nor by any of the news organisations who then went on to buy the footage and report on it.

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