Fake news is not something new, but with the rise of the internet and increased use of social media, it is getting harder to distinguish it from the truth.
Can you spot fake news? Perhaps you are aware that you can’t trust all websites and that you should first check the information before pressing share. However, being able to spot fake news and clickbait stories requires an understanding of what they are. Be aware and not gullible!
There are different types of fake news that you should be aware of. Some are written in the form of satire to joke about famous people or current information. These aren’t meant to be taken seriously. Then there is propaganda, a form of falsifying facts to promote a set of ideas, especially political ones.
Fake news falls under different categories that include false or misleading information. Sometimes these facts are intentionally misinterpreted.
Sometimes news writers can make a mistake in their news story based on misinformation or a typing error. Trusted news sources always correct these errors with a statement.
Finally, there is clickbait. This is not a fake news story but is presented with a misleading title that grabs your attention. Clickbait stories are designed for you to click on money-making links or to get views for a website.
False News Spreads with Speed
Interestingly, MIT researchers found that people are 70% more likely to spread false claims on Twitter. This is because we are wired to react emotionally rather than rationally and are drawn to things that are not ordinary, preferring the extraordinary.
News that grabs you emotionally is often very likely to be fake, so it’s always a good idea to be careful and try to verify it before believing it or sharing. Marc Ambinder, a journalist, and professor, recently said in an article: “Platforms need to ensure they have checks and balances in place to help prevent the spread of fake news.”
Since most people getting their news from their social media feeds are young people, they are more vulnerable to misinformation and wild claims. They need to learn to become critical thinkers, and schools play an essential role in this. However, we can all benefit from learning how to separate fake from real news.
Spotting Fake News
A quick fact check is the best way to ensure what you are about to read is true. Any article that may seem bizarre or too good to believe is probably fake news.
Author Credentials – The author of an article should be experienced in their field. Otherwise, they cannot be an expert and write accurately. Over the last year, you have probably seen many articles about the coronavirus classified as false news. These are especially dangerous because they threaten people’s safety. You can check the author’s credentials online with a LinkedIn or Google search.
Check Sources – Make sure that the sources cited in an article are genuine. Often sources are biased, and if there aren’t any sources, read up a bit more on the topic. This will help you form a better opinion of its accuracy.
Bias can be misleading – Any article that appears too biased may not be giving you the full story. Critical thinking is an essential skill that will help you recognize a biased article.
Information has a sell-by-date – Just like the fresh produce you buy, some information does date. Always check the dates on the news or article you are reading to ensure it is the most up-to-date.
Clickbait’s role in fake news
False information may not always be present in an article, but the way the news is presented can be problematic. Many companies generate revenues of millions of dollars by connecting people to media sites or other relevant stories. These services allow media sites to pay to advertise content on other websites. This is like marketing useless information.
Clickbait headlines make more of an impact than their content and as they are shared. These stories and their sensationalistic headlines are Clickbait articles. These headlines may suggest things like celebrity deaths, heartwarming stories of human compassion, and other unbelievable headlines that are not true. This type of content strategy is known as like-farming. Marketers and strategists generally use it to generate traffic to attract attention or sell something.
Misinformation and disinformation are not easy to solve. Popular social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat have launched measures to keep this type of information off their platforms. Media companies also have a responsibility to ensure that content shared is placed under quality control.
Consumers should seek to become more selective about the information they read and share. That includes avoiding clicking on click-baiting headlines. False information sticks and is difficult to correct. Journalists also need to report on fake news and ensure that it is corrected.