"Fake" memes: a new subgenre of the internet meme




Nakamura, Victoria

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This research project explores how Internet memes are rhetorical devices used to inspire and propagate fake news stories. The creation and virality of fake news stories, stories published by fabricated news outlets that present false information as fact, has increased exponentially in the new age of social media. In 2016 fake news stories dominated Facebook newsfeeds, some articles reaching over a million shares and likes. Similar to fake news articles, memes are popular ideas, images, and videos which also spread rapidly through social media, and as they are shared, users remake and repurpose them. Internet memes are used primarily for comedic entertainment; however, they also confront political and social issues. For this project, I researched the most popular fake news articles from 2016 and then searched to see if any memes matched the article topics. I found that memes either perpetuated fake news articles or furthered their spread. From my research, I have concluded that “fake” memes constitute a distinct meme subgenre. Like most meme subgenres, they do not contain a unifying subject matter; rather, they contain the same function of perpetuating subject matter for fake news or aiding the virality of a fake news article. This function of “fake” memes is extremely important for internet users to understand, because spotting “fake” memes can help users more easily differentiate between factual information and fake news. Understanding “fake” memes helps users see how fake news is spread and the part memes play in its propagation.



memes, fake news, internet meme, meme genres, viral, social media