“Slowly, incest is being legalized throughout Europe” : detecting human rights vulnerabilities in fake news using critical discourse analysis
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Liberal democracy has struggled to respond to so-called fake news. The term is used to describe content and discredit the media, and it is increasingly seen as the tool of illiberal actors. This research examines how fake news targets human rights through a critical discourse analysis of demonstrably false headlines in four environments: the United States, Italy, Greece and Ukraine. This research defines fake news as disinformation or disingenuous content that is disseminated to persuade as an agenda. It then examines relevant social theories, enabling features and motivated actors to suggest that disinformation functions through repetition and peripheral processing that exploit existing scepticism and social tensions in the neo-liberal system. This study collects headlines and headline-adjacent content from factchecking sites in four countries, codes them according to sociological implications and analyses them through social discourse theory. It finds that disinformation targets social movements and multi-culturalism by discrediting actors and presenting the human rights regime as disingenuous and oppressive. Disinformation frames illiberal behaviour as positive transformative action and co-opts the rhetoric of the human rights regime to further arguments rooted in new racism.