You may have heard the term “fake news” a lot lately. Fake news can come from news outlets using shoddy research, clickbait on social media, or it can come from authority figures and experts on a subject propagating misinformation.
Piers Robinson, Professor of Political Journalism at Sheffield University, has said:
“[fake news], distorted information, manipulation communication or propaganda, whatever you want to call it, is nothing new” (Jolley et al.). (1)
Watch this video, Fake News , to learn more about the history of fake news and current issues.
How to Spot Fake News
The Fake News video highlighted some ways to identify fake news. Figure 6-2: How to Spot Fake News offers further suggestions.
What does the phase, “Check your bias” mean? We are all guilty of confirmation bias . That’s when we look for information that is consistent with our existing beliefs. Whether we realize it or not, when we research, we look for evidence that will support what we already believe to be true (Casad). Therefore, we need to be mindful of sources that cause a strong emotional reaction. (1)
Clickbait and Research
The Internet is a sea of information. Mainstream news outlets are competing against popular sites such as Buzzfeed and Twitter, much like fishermen fight for the best fishing spot. To catch the most fish, or readers, many news sources use “clickbait.” Clickbait is a term used to describe a headline that hooks the reader.
In fact, new business models of online journalism use clickbait to pay their writers. These writers might not even be journalists, but freelancers or bloggers (Jeffrey Dvorkin). One magazine pays its writers $5 extra for every 500 clicks on their stories (Frampton). Companies, political groups, and advertisers also use clickbait as a marketing strategy—particularly on social media sites (Zarrin).
According to Pew Research, 66% of Americans use Facebook as a news source (qtd. in Jolley et al. 53). Buzzfeed analyzed their data in 2016 and found that fake news stories were more popular on Facebook than top performing articles from legitimate news outlets (Ritchie). An MIT study found t,hat “a false story [on Twitter] reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story” (Meyer). How is it possible that blatantly false claims are accepted as truth?
Stanford researchers say it is because we are not skeptical enough when we read the news, and students need to learn media literacy skills (Jolley et al. 53). Soroush Vosoughi, who led the MIT study, says it might have to do with human nature and our inclination to spread rumors more than truth (Meyer). (1)
You must think critically when using websites as information sources. Question the authority and credibility of those websites to ensure that you are choosing legitimate news sources.
Since anyone can post anything online, it’s easier than ever to become creators and consumers of information. Before you repost on social media, contemplate whether the information you share is reliable. What’s more, don’t confuse facts with fiction when conducting academic research. (1)