Avoiding Fake News on the Internet
News is everything from the mundane to the extraordinary. Everyone from college students to senior high school students, and even the rest of us in between, know all too well what news is all about. What does it mean, what does it add to our knowledge, what is it used for? News is the “unusual” or even the unknown picture of everyday life. From world wars to natural disasters, weather patterns to new inventions, new products to news events, it is all part of the ever-changing news cycle.
Fake news stories are a problem that is sweeping the internet and across the globe. With social media growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, fake news stories and other forms of false information have managed to permeate the world of blogging and social media websites. In many cases these “fake news stories” are nothing but clever marketing tactics or clever attempts to get you to click on a link. Some times, even some respectable news sources themselves are guilty of spreading these false information stories for monetary gain.
This is why I feel compelled to share with you this very important lesson in media literacy. Media literacy is not the same thing as false information. While the latter is completely against the law and should be immediately and criminally prosecuted, the former is not so much a crime, but a lack of understanding. Simply put, if a news story is completely false, you should not fall for it, regardless of how hard or deep it is. But if you see a news story that could be partially true but slanted in such a way that makes it almost believable, you might be fooled, but only to a very large degree.
This leads me to the next lesson in my series on the power of media literacy: checking. Checking for information, truth, and accuracy should be a standard part of your every day life. Start with what you read and press notes from news sources. After every major event or occurrence (which I suspect most reporters will lie about) you should run it through a “fact checker” program like Politi Fact orting. You can also find many other similar programs online, which will give you a handy checklist to go by whenever something is said or written.
This one item illustrates the key point of media literacy: even when something is not entirely true, it does not mean that it isn’t worth spreading. The goal here is to stay on the side of the truth. If you’re reading a story about a missing child, a false information might lead you to pass that story on without a correction, but if you’re reading an article about climate change and you come across phrases like “it’s been nearly 20 years since the last major hurricane” and “the scientists say that human activity is largely to blame”, you can safely assume that there is probably false information somewhere in the piece. While a single false information can certainly tarnish a news story, a combination of false information and poor information is just as bad, and you can help prevent that kind of false information from getting into the public consciousness by making sure that all your facts are 100% accurate.
This next part relates to making sure that your sources are indeed legitimate and not False News. Many people make the mistake of picking a source based solely off of how popular or important that person is. This is not a good practice because you are opening yourself up to a whole new line of questioning because so many people have become incredibly influential because of the internet and social media sites. You can easily become a celebrity by becoming a “buzz word” generator, and if you start spreading false information, you could cause many people to question the reliability of the entire media system.