Blog Post #2

Book Review: Grieve, J., & Woodfield, H. (2023). The Language of Fake News. Cambridge University Press

Diana Cuevas

"This is not easy, but we are not born reading news, much less believing it. These are behaviours we learn, and we can learn other behaviours if we so choose."

Language plays a crucial role in fake news as it is the primary tool through which manipulation, deception, and persuasion are achieved. Understanding how language is used to create and disseminate false information is essential, as it allows us to more effectively detect and combat misinformation. Studying language in fake news helps strengthen people's critical abilities to distinguish between true and false information.

The primary goal of this research is to assist in identifying fake news based on language, this involves significant ongoing work in the field of natural language processing. In other words, this research is aimed at helping develop tools that can tell whether a news story is true or false by analyzing the language it uses, and this is part of a larger effort in the field of computer science and language technology. They also seek to identify why people believe in fake news from a psychological perspective. In order to do this, they collected Jayson Blair's writings to create a corpus of 64 articles (36 fake and 28 real articles).

In this study, the researchers first introduced a new way of looking at the language used in fake news. They wanted to understand how fake news differs from real news in terms of language, with a focus on the differences between misinformation and disinformation, as well as the idea of register variation. Then, using this new approach, they closely examined the language of fake news in a famous case involving Jayson Blair and The New York Times. They aimed to find and explain the consistent differences in how real and fake news stories are structured grammatically. Lastly, the study explored how their findings could be used to address the issue of fake news, particularly in fields like natural language processing and psychology.

The results that they obtained in the comparison between Jayson Blair's real and fake news, twenty-three out of twenty-eight grammatical features displayed noticeable differences, with a particular focus on information density. Of these, eight features, including average word length and various word types, were more prevalent in his real news about him. In contrast, fifteen features, such as pronouns and verb tenses, were more common in his fake news. It was also mentioned that language variations were consistent and not influenced by the topic or other factors like register variation. Essentially, this analysis reveals distinct linguistic patterns between Blair's real and fake news, emphasizing the reliability of the findings, so they found that Blair's fake news were written in a less dense style than his real news and with less conviction.

In today's world, being able to tell the difference between fake news and true news is incredibly important. It helps us avoid being misled and making poor decisions. By understanding the language tricks used in fake news, we become better at spotting false information, which is especially critical during events like elections and health crises. This knowledge also makes us smarter consumers of news, and it helps trustworthy news sources stay reliable. Identifying fake news is not just about staying informed; it's about protecting ourselves and our society from the dangers of misinformation and sociolinguistics can help us with that.