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Letter sent on Feb 16, 2017

Why we struggle with the term “Fake News”

Hello Everyone,

At First Draft, we’ve been working on the topic of misinformation for more than 18 months. Since the US Presidential election, our work has quadrupled, and issues of responsibility, threats and possible solutions continue to be passionately debated across industries. At the heart of these debates is how to define “fake news” and whether the term itself has become meaningless.

“The reason we struggle with a replacement is because this is about more than news,” writes First Draft Research Director Claire Wardle, “it’s about the entire information ecosystem. Without an alternative, we’re left awkwardly using air quotes whenever we use the phrase, ‘fake news.’”

Claire’s latest article for First Draft is based on her recent lectures and includes a breakdown of the different types of content that are being created and shared, the motivations of those who create this content and the ways this content is being disseminated. She also supports Craig Silverman’s advice for encouraging emotional skepticism and stresses the importance of reminding people to second guess their instinctual reaction.


The Partner Network has been inundated with requests to join since we opened the application in September. We are proud to welcome all of our new partners to the Network including ANP and Deutsche Welle. See our growing list of Partners.


From February 24–26, we’ll be in Cambridge, Massachusetts, co-hosting MisinfoCon with Nieman and Hacks/Hackers. MisinfoCon is a community of people focused on the challenge of misinformation and what can be done to address it. One of the coolest things about the annual summit is that it brings together people from different backgrounds and disciplines — developers, librarians, academics and news consumers — to lead discussions and develop and test product prototypes on the fly. The website gives the mission and a loose schedule, and its Medium handle has the latest event updates.

The response to attend the summit has been overwhelming and applications are now closed. For those who are unable to attend, we will share updates during the event @firstdraftnews and report outcomes of the event on firstdraftnews.com.


Last week, we announced CrossCheck, our collaborative journalism project with an initial focus on the French election. We’re working nonstop on getting the systems in place to go live on February 27. Follow Facebook and @crosscheck on Twitter to receive reports in French and English from that date.


Three Must Reads

Fake News Firestorm Hits French Presidential Election: Richard Ferrand, secretary-general of Macron’s En Marche! (Onwards!) party, marked the first direct accusation from a French political party that forces in Russia are trying to influence the election. Reuters

Meet the Macedonian Teens Who Mastered Fake News and Corrupted the US Election: “After seeing the BMW, Boris decided to start some websites of his own…he bought a succession of domains…built basic WordPress sites, and stuffed them with…articles all pilfered from elsewhere.” Wired, Samanth Subramanian

A warm welcome back to the ABC Fact Check unit. They’ll partner with RMIT to test the accuracy of claims made by politicians, advocacy groups and institutions.


Congratulations to our friends at the Local News Lab for their website relaunch, which features actionable ideas and a set of new guides for local newsrooms.

All the best,
 The First Draft Team