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Interview with Dr. Shoko Kiyohara: “Information posted by celebrities carries weight”

  • April 8, 2018
  • , Asahi , p. 7
  • JMH Translation

Interview with Meiji University Associate Professor Shoko Kiyohara by Shojiro Okuyama


To prevent the spread of fake news requires that those distributing information take measures, but it also requires that thought be given to the mindset of those receiving the information. At Meiji University’s School of Information and Communication, Professor Kiyohara teaches a seminar on fake news. She leads a group of eight third-year male students in thinking about fake news countermeasures from the recipient’s perspective.


Every week, the students bring in information that they think is fake news. They present the information and state why they think it is fake news, and then the group discusses it.


Photos make information seem “trustworthy”


On social networking sites (SNS), inclusion of an image greatly impacts whether the information will be spread. In the case of fake news as well, it has been noted that inclusion of an image makes the information seem more reliable.


From the discussion at the seminar, it was clear that entertainers are given great authority. If information is sent by a famous celebrity, many said they found it easy to trust the information even if it were false and that they tended to spread it.


Some students said: “It is more convincing than regular news.” “They are good at talking and communicating.” “It is easy to share things if it has been sent from a celebrity.”


Fake news was an issue in the U.S. presidential election.  Associate Professor Kiyohara says, “We need to remember the differences between the U.S. and Japanese media environments.”


“Just as in politics, the media in the United States is sharply polarized between left and right.”


“An international survey comparing trust in the mass media has shown that Americans trust their media less than Japanese trust theirs because of the media’s political bias.”


Professor Kiyohara has also taken notice of the influence of television in Japan.


“If the source of Internet information is television or if an opinion leader or famous person makes a comment on television, the students tend not to doubt [its veracity].”


In contrast, if the source is not television or other mass media, “the students seem to be cautious about whether to share it or not and whether to believe it or not.”


Information recipients’ mindset is important


Among the instances of fake news brought to the seminar by the students, many concerned health information, corporate scandals, and other information unrelated to politics.


Professor Kiyohara points out: “This suggests that it is not enough to only perform fact checks (on political news).” She says it would be helpful to conduct a survey of information recipients. “For information recipients to use fact checks means that they realize the need to confirm the veracity of information.”


In that regard, Professor Kiyohara says, “Having high schools and universities instill in young people an awareness of fake news and make them difficult to deceive by fake news could be a way to counter the spread of fake news from a long-term perspective.” (Abridged)


Characteristics of fake news that tends to spread

Information that gives the impression of being well established

        Information on companies or people that have been involved in past scandals

        Information on people, groups, or countries that are the subject of biased rumors

Information that is hard to confirm due to lack of information

        Warnings about food contamination and scandals involving celebrities

        Fragmentary information on medical treatment or health

Note: Prepared by Meiji University Associate Professor Shoko Kiyohara

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