Is sharing “FAKE NEWS” and gossiping “FAKE NEWS” a mortal sin?
Let us first defined the meaning of "fake news";
Fake news or junk news or pseudo-news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. The false information is often caused by reporters paying sources for stories, an unethical practice called checkbook journalism. Digital news has brought back and increased the usage of fake news, or yellow journalism. The news is then often reverberated as misinformation in social media but occasionally finds its way to the mainstream media as well.
Fake news is written and published usually with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership. Similarly, clickbait stories and headlines earn advertising revenue from this activity.
Let us also take further a look at the other definition and the proper identification of "fake news" and their intentions;
Fake news is a neologism often used to refer to fabricated news. This type of news, found in traditional news, social media or fake news websites, has no basis in fact, but is presented as being factually accurate.
The intent and purpose of fake news is important. In some cases, what appears to be fake news may be news satire, which uses exaggeration and introduces non-factual elements that are intended to amuse or make a point, rather than to deceive. Propaganda can also be fake news. Some researchers have highlighted that "fake news" may be distinguished not just by the falsity of its content, but also the "character of [its] online circulation and reception".
Claire Wardle of First Draft News identifies seven types of fake news:
satire or parody ("no intention to cause harm but has potential to fool")
false connection ("when headlines, visuals or captions don't support the content")
misleading content ("misleading use of information to frame an issue or an individual")
false context ("when genuine content is shared with false contextual information")
impostor content ("when genuine sources are impersonated" with false, made-up sources)
manipulated content ("when genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive", as with a "doctored" photo)
fabricated content ("new content is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm")
It is also noteworthy to ponder what Pope Francis had stated regarding "fake news";
Pope Francis has brought a biblical bearing to the global debate over fake news by condemning the phenomenon as satanic and saying it began in the Garden of Eden.
In a document released Wednesday, Francis claimed peddlers of fake news use “snake tactics” and “disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place.”
Francis pinned responsibility for the start of disinformation on the “crafty serpent,” who, according to the Bible, “at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news.”
By persuading Eve there was nothing wrong with eating an apple from the tree of knowledge, despite the stern warning from God not to do so, the snake, with fake news, “began the tragic history of human sin,” Francis wrote.
Pope Francis sees origin of fake news in the snake's lies in the Garden of Eden
After knowing what "fake news" is all about, now let us define "mortal sin" according to Catholic Church teachings;
A mortal sin (Latin: peccatum mortale), in Catholic theology, is a gravely sinful act, which can lead to damnation if a person does not repent of the sin before death. A sin is considered to be "mortal" when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God's saving grace.
The term "mortal sin" is thought to be derived from the New Testament of the Bible. Specifically, it has been suggested that the term comes from the 1 John 5:16–17.3 In this particular verse, the author of the Epistle writes "There is a sin that leads to death."
In Roman Catholic moral theology, a mortal sin requires that all of the following conditions are met:
Its subject matter must be grave.
It must be committed with full knowledge (and awareness) of the sinful action and the gravity of the offense.
It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grave matter (1858):
Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother." The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger. - Mortal Sin (Wikipedia)
Looking at the definition of "fake news" and "mortal sins" in particulars three conditions of committing it. We can conclude that indeed the Catholic Church teaches that spreading and gossiping "fake news" falls under the category of "grave sins". Since "fake news" definitely contains lies and the author or the one spreading or uploading and sharing it's content has full knowledge of it and if there is a deliberate and willful intent on their part it fully satisfies the conditions set by the Catholic Church teachings.
But, how about those who reported, spreads or gossips a "True News" that contains information intentionally to ruin the refutation of one's neighbor, is that a mortal sins too? YES, it's called the "Sins of the Tongue or backbiting tongue":
SINS OF THE TONGUE THE BACKBITING TONGUE
Originally written in French in 1870, Fr. Belet wages war against one of the worst sins of his (and our)
time - backbiting - better known to us as detraction (telling the faults of others without cause). Most of
us do not realize how evil this sin is. In fact, many of us don't think it's a sin at all. After ruining
someone's reputation, or satisfying our anger (and yes, our hatred) by spewing out every bad thing
we can say about someone, we justify ourselves by saying, "Well, it's true!" We even think we are
acting justly by giving someone what they deserve.. Due to our lack of charity and also to our pride,
little do we see things from God's point of view, to whom these are vile sins - a form of hatred of
neighbor - a failure to do the two things necessary - to love God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40).
St.John Chrysostom reminded even those who justified they are just telling the truth eventhough by saying and spreading "truthful news" publicly would ruin one's refutation;
Saint John Chrysostom paints an eloquent picture of the evils of backbiting. “What is the use of sparing birds and fishes if we eat our own brothers?” he says. Indeed, the backbiter rips his brother’s flesh with his teeth and tears his neighbor’s body to shreds. That is what Saint Paul wants to frighten us from when he says, “If you bite and devour one another, take heed or you will be consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:15)
And to keep us from sidestepping this admonition, Saint John Chrysostom adds, “Do not tell me, ‘I would be a slanderer only if I lied. I am committing no slander if I tell the truth.’ Error! Speaking evil of others, even if the evil be true, is always a crime. Surely the publican was really a publican and a sinner; but he left cleansed of all his defilements because he was scorned by the Pharisee. You want to correct your brother? Weep, pray to God, warn him by speaking to his heart, advise and exhort him. That is how Saint Paul acted. ‘But backbiting is so sweet!’ you say. Yes, but not backbiting is sweeter still. The backbiter creates deadly anxiety for himself, he is constantly besieged by suspicion and fear. He repents, but too late; he bites his tongue, but in vain; he trembles, for as his words spread, they may cause him grave danger and expose those who repeat them to enmities which so easily could have been avoided.”
(Saint John Chrysostom, Homily 3, Ad pop Antioch.)
Therefore, let us eliminate every sort of backbiting, knowing full well that were we to eat ashes, all our austerities would be useless to us if we linger in this vice. - SINS OF THE TONGUE – Fr. Belet – Part One
Full content of the Sins of the Tongue by Fr.Belet link:
SINS OF THE TONGUE:
The Backbiting Tongue
By Father Belet, of the Diocese of Basle
Translated from the French, 1870 ed.
Lastly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the 8th Commandments fully tackles the sins of spreading and gossiping "fake news" as one good example below;
CCC2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one's neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity. - Catechism of the Catholic Church