Fake news is black-hat content strategy

Fake news is black-hat content strategy. It’s only a matter of time before the techniques we are seeing in politics migrate over to the business world.

Content strategy is advancing your organization’s goals using information. If the facts don’t fit what you are trying to do, then fake news is a content strategy. Shape the narrative and the discussion, and hope to advance your goals this way.

So far, fake news is being used to shape public opinion, but what would stop someone from executing a fake-news business content strategy? We have already seen fragments of this approach. Certain large tech organizations are notorious for spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about their competitors. This usually takes the form of “oh, they are so small…are they going to be around in a few years? Seems risky to choose them.” or “Oh, they are so large…this product isn’t really their focus. Seems risky to choose them.”

Fake news just takes the final step from “asking the question” to “providing a completely bogus answer.” Instead of planting the question, a vendor could use a third party to issue a fake press release about a (non-existent) acquisition of their competition.

So what is our responsibility as content strategists? In the same way that hackers are divided into white-hat hackers (operate legally, work on testing information security, disclose results to their customers) versus black-hat hackers, we may see a division into black-hat and white-hat content strategists.

For white-hat content strategists, this is simple:

DON’T DO FAKE NEWS.

But how do you combat black-hat content strategy? (Starting point: this article on how to beat hackers (http://www.komando.com/tips/293692/5-ways-hackers-attack-you-and-how-to-beat-them/all)

  • Educate people about what makes content reputable and what content should be viewed with suspicion.
  • Expand security and anti-virus software to identify fake news sites.
  • Secure content distribution networks so that bad actors cannot inject fake news into an otherwise reputable site.
  • Provide readers with easy ways to identify content that has been manipulated.

If you’re not depressed yet, this story will take you down the rabbit hole: FAKE NEWS IS ABOUT TO GET EVEN SCARIER THAN YOU EVER DREAMED (Nick Bilton, Vanity Fair)

So, content strategists, what is our responsibility in this brave new world?

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