Political Elites' Use of Fake News Discourse Across Communications Platforms

Kate Farhall, Andrea Carson, Scott Wright, Andrew Gibbons, William Lukamto


“Fake news” has become a global term since Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States. President Trump adopted what we describe as a “discourse of fake news” to attack and discredit news media and political rivals, which is suggested to have been reproduced by politicians in other national contexts. This article investigates whether Australian politicians adopt a fake news discourse. To do so, data are gathered over six months after Trump’s election from four political communications fora : parliamentary debates, social media (Facebook and Twitter), press, and politicians’ websites. We find fake news discourse is predominantly the domain of conservatives. Frequent users employ fake news discourse to delegitimize primarily the media, but also political opponents. Australian politicians’ use of fake news discourse is rare, but it is amplified by news media. Concerningly, it is seldom contested. We argue this has negative consequences for public debate and trust in media and political institutions.


fake news, political communication, media trust, Australian politics, journalism, weaponization

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