Verify: Did 'fake news' originate from WWI, WWII?

Verify: 'Fake news'

QUESTION: 

Did the term "fake news" originate from World War I and World War II? 

ANSWER: 

We can verify that the phrase "fake news" does appear to have been born in the runups to World War I and World War II, but Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg brought it back into our modern lexicon.

PROCESS: 

WUSA9 started by looking at the Google NGrams Viewer - a tool that tracks the popularity of words and phrases in books published over the last 200 years.


That told us the phrase "fake news" did in fact take off at the start of World War I and reached its peak in the leadup to World War II. As a Forbes magazine article states, that likely reflects the rise of wartime propaganda.

It's also true that the phrase has had a resurgence in recent years - and many think Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is responsible for that.

But thanks again to Forbes magazine and another online search tool called "Television Explorer," we see the term "fake news" is nearly nonexistent on national television networks like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC from 2009 until the fall of 2016.

Then on Nov. 11 it exploded in popularity, which is what we're seeing in this graph. And that date is important because it's the day after Zuckerberg famously proclaimed it was a crazy idea that the spread of fake news on Facebook could have impacted the election.

The phrase died off a bit, until "Pizzagate" when a man with a gun, motivated by reading fake stories about a child sex ring showed up at a Northwest DC pizza restaurant called Comet Ping Pong. "Fake News" then became a very real threat for all of us.

WANT TO VERIFY SOMETHING? 

Anytime you question one of our stories or anything else you see in print on TV or in your social media feeds, write to us and ask us to verify. You can also reach out on Twitter, Facebook or email us at verify@wusa9.com.

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© 2017 WUSA-TV


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