What is “fake news”? And what can be done about it? Depending on who you ask, fake news is said to represent a step-change in information warfare; an emerging form of cynical profiteering; an engine for energising “alt-right” and other digitally mediated grassroots political mobilisations around the world; a partisan battle cry for a new liberal “ministry of truth”; an unwanted byproduct of the online platforms which organise our digital societies; or a canary call signalling a collapse of consensus around established institutions and processes of knowledge production, heralding a new “post-truth” era in politics and public life.
This guide aims to enrich public debate and catalyse collective inquiry around this rapidly evolving and highly contested issue – by suggesting different ways in which it can be empirically studied, mapped and investigated online. Ultimately our hope is not just to provide better accounts of the issue of fake news and phenomena associated with it, but also to contribute to more substantive forms of public engagement around it. We hope this guide will contribute to facilitating broader public debate and involvement around processes of reshaping platforms and policies, laws and infrastructures, technologies and standards that are implicated in the circulation of fake news and other fabrications. This includes remaining attentive to possible unintended consequences of these different responses, as well as other interests and concerns.