Articles and stories get referred to as ‘fake news’ so often these days, it’s pretty much become a joke. It doesn’t help that Donald Trump loves calling legitimate news sources and stories ‘fake’ to further his own personal or political agenda (assuming he has enough of a plan for his presidency to call it an ‘agenda’). Fake news is a real thing though (yeah, that’s pretty much the only way to phrase that to make the point) and we should all be concerned about it.
Remember all that Russian meddling drama surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election? Russian businesses used targeted ads and fake news stories to alter public opinion and influence people’s votes. It may seem like a funny punchline, but fake news actually influenced American politics (and is possibly the reason we’re now dealing with President Trump). There are real life consequences at stake here.
So how do we identify and combat fake news? It’s all over the internet and you might be spreading it unknowingly if you’re not careful about where you source your news from. With two-thirds of the population getting their news from social media, it is crucial that we all do our part to only share true information. Remember: Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social media gang aren’t actually news outlets; they are websites through which many organizations and people share news (and misinformation). Buzzfeed’s Jane Lytvynenko outlines some ways you could be sharing fake news and not even know it.
1. Sharing without reading past the headline
When you share news articles, have you actually read the full story? Have you clicked the link at all? There have have been reports of articles making the rounds on Facebook that don’t have any text attached once you click the link to the story. A compelling headline and feature image is sometimes all it takes to get likes and shares on social media. If you share, make sure it’s something you can stand by, not just something with a shocking headline.
2. Sharing to confirm bias
This goes hand-in-hand with sharing without reading. Sometimes people share articles with headlines that align with their world view just to confirm and justify their own biases. These articles might not be fake information, but they could be hyper-partisan and twist facts to support a certain point of view. If the facts seem one-sided, that’s probably because your source is ignoring the other side(s).
3. Not calling out friends
All of us have a responsibility not to disseminate or perpetuate fake news. If you see your friend shared something you know is fake, message them. Not only will you educate them about the issue, you’ll save all their friends/followers from the fake news. You’re a hero.
4. Sharing opinions like they’re facts
There are those who report the news and then there are those who comment on it. Political pundits and pretty much anyone with a smartphone can comment on the news, spin it and just blurt out lies. When you share something that is a personal opinion and say it’s a fact, you are creating fake news.
5. Failing to verify sources of pictures and videos
A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? Not in the age of Photoshop. There have been countless cases of sensational fake photos going viral. These can be Photoshopped images or even pictures users claim are from a different event or time than they actually are. Remember when that shark swam up to a car during Hurricane Harvey? Well it didn’t happen. With viral images, you can reverse search them on Google to see where they came from. If their source isn’t official or verifiable, the photo or the story with it is probably fake.
Now go forth and be bearers of truth. Make the News Real Again.