17 Jul More Information Monday: Fake News
This week we look at the problem of Fake News!
Let’s start with the basics – what is fake news?
Fake news are stories that are generated online with outrageous headlines and sensational content. They are designed to resemble real news sites both in how they are formatted and shared. However there is NO actual factual basis for the story. They are created so people will click on them, share them, and they go viral. Basically, it would be like if someone picked up the National Enquirer at the grocery store check out, reformatted it to make it look like the Wall Street Journal and then sold it. People may then actually believe that Martha Stewart was having an alien’s love child! Fake news is doing the same thing, but it is online where everything moves faster and a lot goes unquestioned.
Source: 1 and 2
Why would someone do that? Don’t they have anything better to do than spending their time making up news stories?
It all comes back to the money! The reason these stories are created is solely to drive web traffic to a certain site and generate advertising revenue. The more that people share, click or spread the stories, the more money the owners of the sites make from people clicking on the page. A lot of these stories begin with conspiracy theories or claims made in ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal chat rooms. The stories get created to look like real news with catchy headlines to make people click on the link or share them (this is called click-baiting – just so you know the term) and the site creators make the ad money. In fact, some of the highest grossing fake news stories/sites that circulated during the 2016 election were created in Macedonia (which for those of us who were absent that day in 6th grade is a country located near Bulgaria, Greece, & Serbia) and made one person over $16,000! (Fun fact: the average monthly salary in Macedonia is $371.)
Source: 1 and 6
How is it different than The Onion or The Daily Show? Aren’t they also fake news?
They are traditional fake news that has existed for years. They are satirical in nature with the intention to make a comedic point. They never pretend or imply that what they are putting out is intended to be real news. The fake news that is being circulated now are stories that they want people to perceive as real.
Why is it an issue?
According to studies, between 60-70% of adults get their news from social media sites. The fake news stories cause confusion about current events that are happening. People need news to get information about what is going on in the world around them – things that happen, government actions, major events – and right now these fake news stories make it hard to trust the media. There has always been bias in the news media, but at least the news they were reporting was factual and if they made a mistake, a retraction was issued. The fake news has allowed wrong information to be spread faster than the gossip about the breakup between the quarterback and the prom queen. It’s also a problem because the stories are often shared without people realizing they are fake.
Source:3, 4 and 5
Why is fake news being talked about so much right now?
Fake news has become a hot topic since the 2016 Presidential election where a lot of these stories were widely spread about both political candidates. Some people believe that the increase of these stories (which have the capacity of reaching millions of social media uses) may have had an effect on how people voted because they were using these fake stories as factors in their votes. It’s also an issue because public officials have often fallen prey to thinking fake stories are real and then been referenced publicly – this only takes that rumor mill to another level!
Source: 1 and 2
Is anything being done about this? Or is this just a part of life now?
In light of all this, Facebook and Google have both come out in the past few months with tools to help spot fake news and keep it from spreading. Facebook users can flag a story as being false and Facebook will send it to 3rd party fact-checking outlets to determine its credibility. If they concur that it’s fake, a red banner will appear that says “Disputed by third-party fact checkers”. Google has come out to say they will not allow fake news sites to use their advertising program AdSense.
However, the best defense against fake news are the social media users themselves (we’re looking at you – yes you.) On Take Action Thursday, we will show you how to spot fake news and do something about it!
Source: 1 and 4
Join us tomorrow to see what some of the debates are about Fake News on Two-Sided Tuesday!
1: “Fake News: Does fake news pose a significant problem for democracy?” Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 2 Mar. 2017, http://0-icof.infobaselearning.com.library.brookdalecc.edu/recordurl.aspx?ID=16337. Accessed 14 July 2017.
2:“Fake News on Social Media.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/OBOYIA996440220/OVIC?u=brookdalecc&xid=67265a2e. Accessed 14 July 2017.
3: Barthel, Michael, et al. Many Americans Believe Fake News Is Sowing Confusion. Washington, D.C., Pew Research Center, 15 Dec. 2016, www.journalism.org/2016/12/15/many-americans-believe-fake-news-is-sowing-confusion/. Accessed 14 July 2017.
4: McCutcheon, Chuck. “Trust in Media.” CQ Researcher, 9 June 2017, pp. 481-508, library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2017060900.
5: Gottfried, Jeffrey, and Elisa Shearer. News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016. Washington, D.C., Pew Research Center, 16 May 2016, www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/. Accessed 14 July 2017.
6: Subramanian, Samanth. “Welcome to Macedonia, Fake News Factory to the World.” Wired, vol. 25, no. 3, Mar. 2017, p. 68. EBSCOhost.