Many things have been said about the phenomenon of “fake news,” and many people have weaponized the term as a way to defend themselves from negative press. However, these misleading or blatantly false news reports, in their truest form, still circulate like wildfire on social media — and that’s led new Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong to comment on the trend in a recent interview, referring to fake news as the “cancer of our time.”
Speaking on a recent episode of CNBC’s Squawk Alley, Soon-Shiong was answering a question about current news trends in social media, given how Facebook’s news feed and other platforms and features make it easier for people to consume news on the internet.
“The short attention span we’re creating in this millennium is actually very dangerous,” said Soon-Shiong.
“It’s the unintended consequences of social media.”
Soon-Shiong, the chairman and CEO of biotech company NantQwest — who purchased the Los Angeles Times in June — also commented on how Facebook and other platforms have received flak from the press for their role in the proliferation of fake news, and on the tendency of people to believe such articles. He said that people now have a hard time distinguishing between fake news, opinions, and legitimate news reports.
“[Fake news is the] cancer of our time and social media is a form of metastasis of news. We need to change that.”
New L.A. Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong writes a note to readers: "I believe that fake news is the cancer of our times and social media the vehicles for metastasis……" https://t.co/oMUiocqpvh
— Marcus Yam 火 (@yamphoto) June 18, 2018
Despite Soon-Shiong’s criticism of how social media has helped the spread of fake news, certain platforms have at least signaled that they are willing to do their part in trying to curb the trend. In January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cited studies that claimed certain types of social media content had a negative effect on people’s well-being as he announced drastic changes to how the news feed delivers content, where certain types of content — including news articles — would be deemphasized in favor of posts from friends, family, and loved ones.
The reforms, however, were not instituted without criticism from publishers — who felt that the changes would affect their revenue and jeopardize their business prospects — as outlined in an op-ed posted on The Guardian.
Patrick Soon-Shiong’s comments to Squawk Alley about fake news being the “cancer of our time” and social media being a “form of metastasis” did not mark the first time that he has used similar words in a public statement. Prior to the finalization of his takeover owner of the Los Angeles Times, he posted an open letter to the publication’s readers in June, using slight variations on the above words and stressing that the Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune— which he also purchased — need to be “bastions of editorial integrity and independence” as the fight against misinformation continues.