Fake News and the Economy of Emotions: Problems, Causes, Solutions

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This paper examines the 2016 US presidential election campaign to identify problems with, causes of, and solutions to, the contemporary fake news phenomenon. To do this we employ textual analysis and feedback from engagement, meetings and panels with technologists, journalists, editors, non-profits, public relations firms, analytics firms and academics during the globally-leading technology conference, South-by-South West, in March 2017. We further argue that what is most significant about the contemporary fake news furore is what it portends: the use of personally and emotionally targeted news produced by algo-journalism and what we term ‘empathic media’. In assessing solutions to this democratically problematic situation, we recommend that greater attention be paid to the role of digital advertising in causing, and combating both the contemporary fake news phenomenon, and the near-horizon variant of empathically-optimised automated fake news.


  • digital advertising, empathic media, Trump election, fake news, Facebook, emotion
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-175
JournalDigital Journalism
Issue number2
Early online date20 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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