Don’t be Tricked Online - Fake news
You may remember the countless Donald Trump memes about “fake news” during his presidency in the US, although he arguably incorrectly labelled certain news fake it is a common problem in the digital world. It has further increased with the rise of social media, especially on Facebook or Instagram News Feeds.
As social media is a public platform, anyone can post anything without checking their facts.When we consider what is “fake news” there are two kinds of false information to be aware of—misinformation and disinformation.
Misinformation and disinformation
Misinformation aims to shape and change people’s opinion by misleading them. A study from Indiana University classified misinformation as “false or misleading content including hoaxes, conspiracy theories, fabricated reports, click-bait headlines, and even satire.”
Disinformation can be spread in similar ways to misinformation but is intended to deceive rather than mislead. There are many reasons why individual social media or business accounts might do this. They may wish to increase their social media marketing effectiveness, boost online traffic, gain more followers, incite an emotional response, or create distractions.
Disinformation can be dangerous on social media due to the vast amount of information and readers’ attention spans.
Identifying Fake News
Social media platforms are designed to retain users and get engagement not to distinguish between real and fake news. If you want to know if something being shared by a personal account is trustworthy here are a few questions that can help you identify fake news:
Does the person who shared the post have an emotional or professional investment in these claims? If either, they might not be completely unbiased, but it requires some judgement on your part and perhaps some research into their claim.
Is this information reasonable? Does what they are saying sound believable perhaps ask some people you trust whether they think it is reasonable as sometimes our own biases can influence us.
Does it come from a reputable source? E: g University, Government or Scholarly articles, most mainstream Magazines/Newspapers, and published works from reputable publishers. Places like Wikipedia and online blogs are not necessarily reliable and even some more reliable sources may have a political agenda or their own bias, so you need to exercise your own judgement.
Business or professional accounts
If you work for a professional organization where social media pages are tailored towards a particular audience there may be more motivation to fall into the categories of “fake news” to gain an edge. As well as the questions you’d ask of a personal account, you should also ask:
How it serves its audience? It should help its audience and advertise the business based on accurate information
How it reflects on the business’s reputation or values? Should be trustworthy and reliable consider checking the reviews (not always reliable) or asking people who’ve interacted with the company
Is this relevant to my clientele? Personal bias should not be involved
Falling victim to misinformation or “fake news” with a professional or business account can have serious consequences and possible legal ramifications.
Combating Fake News
Combating fake news on social media is about understanding other users’ motives as well as the platforms intention. Social media platforms make money by selling user data (information about you) to ad companies, which is why ads you see are often based on your interests or search history.
The news that appears on your social media feed is filtered based on collected data which now you are aware of can help you be more conscious of your own inherent bias as some of what you see may be based on what you are conveying about yourself online. Fake news on social media is probably unavoidable but by thinking critically or having a level of curiosity for what you read on your feed and understanding how social media platforms curate what you see you can help sort the fact from the fiction.
Looking at “Fake News” from a more light-hearted viewpoint this YouTuber ChrisMD faked a video of his cat as a goalkeeper and some media outlets mislead their audiences stating it was real even though Chris informed them that it was fake.