How to Fight Fake News

Fake+news+is+becoming+more+prevalent+throughout+social+media%2C+and+it+is+important+to+be+able+to+recognize+it%2C+and+stop+the+spread+of+it.+%0APhoto+courtesy+of+openclipart.org+and+dharmanation.org
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How to Fight Fake News

Fake news is becoming more prevalent throughout social media, and it is important to be able to recognize it, and stop the spread of it. 
Photo courtesy of openclipart.org and dharmanation.org

Fake news is becoming more prevalent throughout social media, and it is important to be able to recognize it, and stop the spread of it. Photo courtesy of openclipart.org and dharmanation.org

Fake news is becoming more prevalent throughout social media, and it is important to be able to recognize it, and stop the spread of it. Photo courtesy of openclipart.org and dharmanation.org

Fake news is becoming more prevalent throughout social media, and it is important to be able to recognize it, and stop the spread of it. Photo courtesy of openclipart.org and dharmanation.org

Vikram Achuthan, Staff Writer

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Ten years ago, the issue of “fake news” was non-existent. Many Americans followed only one major source of news, which catered to most of their needs. The amount of Facebook users have grown significantly over the last ten years. In fact, in 2008, there were 100 million Facebook users worldwide. Today, 2.07 billion users, almost 30 percent of the world’s population, are connected on Facebook. Before the rise of social media, news networks were information gatekeepers, broadcasting news the way they liked, within legal limits. The American people had the choice to turn on the television to Fox News, or CNN. They could choose to listen to political pundits like Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. In other words, Americans had the ability to decide who and what they wanted to listen to.

With social media, information is at our fingertips. Unlike before, there is no need to put effort into choosing news. Articles and stories just appear in our feed, and even if we know not to read the article, we still read the headline. Suddenly, after a second glance, it seems interesting and we click the link and read the first few sentences. Several red flags go off in our head – we know what we’re reading cannot be true.  But then we realize that a friend we know to be smart shared this – it must be true. Then we decide to share it with all of our friends. The cycle repeats. This is how fake news spreads. Information from small, unreliable sources get bigger and bigger.

To protect from the spread of fake news, it is critical to change the way you view news. You must adjust so that reading news and scrolling through social media is no longer a passive activity.

Be skeptical

Read and browse through the news with a purpose and have a goal in mind. If something doesn’t seem true, it probably isn’t. To understand this idea, it is important to realize the fundamental reason why fake news is published. The small news websites that are notorious for publishing fake news need revenue, which is generated when people view the website, mostly through advertising to continue functioning. The fake news we witness from time to time is usually interesting and filled with juicy gossip. These organizations publish false information, knowing that people will read and watch news that follows those guidelines.

The effort to fight fake news becomes more powerful if we take time to second-guess information and think before passing something along. Social media platforms, in particular, are not as pure and reputable as they have been. Taking additional time to scrutinize what we read and listen to can prevent the spread of fake news.

Check the source

Although this is a generally good strategy to filter out fake news, it becomes difficult when fake news has been spread for so long. Take a recent example – the Birther Controversy – and how it became a prolonged, distraction for our nation. In 2011, Donald Trump made a series of statements saying that there is a possibility that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He urged the President to reveal his birth certificate and prove that he was born in the US. This accusation was promoted by candidate Trump throughout his presidential campaign, and became a major discussion point in the 2016 election. If this obscure claim was debunked when it was small and largely unnoticed, it would never have blown up and become a big deal. However, people did not think to check another source, and instead kept passing it on.

Fake news becomes very hard to control when it is promoted by a celebrity or public figure. An endorsement adds a layer of credibility to fake news, which makes it more difficult to thwart. If some news seems incorrect, try to find it somewhere else. If it is published on major news sites, the probability it is true increases. A photograph or video also is helpful in providing documentation of an event. Going the extra step to cross-check information before sharing is beneficial to our society.

Watch out for confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is a type of bias that makes people want to agree with something if it supports what they believe, or their respective ideologies. For example, if someone is allergic to cats and doesn’t like them, they may be more likely to spread false information about cats. Fake news publishers, knowing that confirmation bias exists, are then able to tap into it to promote their news. They may publish an article that says negative things about cats which are untrue. Though this is a less serious example, it demonstrates how fake news exploits our biases. As mentioned earlier, distributors and writers of fake news have a purpose in mind; while sometimes their interests are monetary, they can also be fixed around advancing a cultural or political agenda. To strengthen their agenda, they may promote fake news that adheres to our confirmation biases. This is why when reading and listening to the news, we must have an open mind, and not limit ourselves to one perspective.

 

We as a nation rely heavily on the media, and having a free press that can report the news freely without the government’s intervention is what keeps our democracy afloat. However, the issue of fake news has put our first amendment right to a free press in danger. Anytime fake news is written, or spread, it is an assault on our democracy. We as a society must encourage scrutiny, and seek out wrong information. We must demand truthfulness from the press, and from each other. And lastly, we must be ready to accept information that may not follow our beliefs, but is true in all forms.

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