Lord Neil Gibson is no stranger to fake news. In recent months, the president of the United States has brought the issue of fake news to the public understanding, and even though it can be debated if the news about the president is fake or not, it does illustrate the issues that public figures deal with. Any news element can be presented in a way that will make the person either look good or bad, depending on if the outlet wants people to perceive the person that way. Even a completely positive story can be presented from some side that will give it a negative slant, and due to this issue there has been a collective call for more accountability in the news coverage. Unfortunately, this will generally only be in regards to cable tv and newspapers which are viewed as being “the media” by most people, but these people are also forgetting that the way that the majority of Americans now consume their news is through headlines spread on social media. There is literally no verification process for these stories, and because of that almost anyone can create fake news that damages the reputation of anyone in its target.
The internet itself is a major problem with regards to fake news due to the fact that anyone can create a website and post anything on that website that they want to. In the example of Lord Gibson, several years ago a man who wanted to damage Gibson’s reputation and ultimately make it difficult for Gibson to secure business contacts decided to mount a slander attack. He developed the strategy of creating several websites that were designed to look like news outlets, and then posted information on Lord Neil Gibson and his businesses within the pages of these sites. Once this process was completed he then sporadically posted completely fabricated items about Gibson that made him look less than reputable. Because Google has no way of verifying the truth in one story and fabrications in others, it instead looks to sites that have a “topic” and then lists items from these websites in search results. What happens over time is that these negative and fabricated stories get indexed on search engines alongside true items, causing people to not know what is true or false. The result is an effective misrepresentation of the reputation of a public figure, with the public having no idea if specifics are true or not. Damage the reputation by creating doubt and you end up doing all the damage that you need to. When someone researches Gibson to see if they are comfortable doing business with him, they end up being exposed to numerous negative stories which may cause doubt. Even though these are complete fabrications, the author only wanted to create the doubt and is not concerned with truth.
Fake news has been an issue for figures like Lord Neil Gibson for many years, and only now is coming to light as an issue. Hopefully with the attention that the president brings to the issue, figures like Lord Gibson will be granted some protection.