Fake News on Social Media
News is generally an unannounced and unprinted account of human action, which aims to inform, interest or educate the reader. It’s like a hot cake just coming out of the oven. Any, which has ever come into print before, doesn’t make news. That honor goes to the papers that specialize in “newsworthy” news, that publish regularly and are circulated to newspapers and other media groups around the world. It’s that paper you read that decides what’s important and what’s not.
Some would argue that most of the “fake news” that circulates on social media sites is a direct result of “alternative facts”. Propaganda, if you will. Nevertheless, most of the “fake news” seems designed to purposefully mislead and feed the mass media a daily false information story, designed to rile up the masses and stir up enough interest in the news that the advertisers who are trying to sell you something will get some measure of hits for their advertising dollars. Therefore, many social media users have developed a new ability to tell the difference between real news and the ” Fake news” crowd.
So, how does one judge whether or not a given source of news is “Real News” and if not, one must take seriously that many outlets spreading false information on social media could very well be doing so with a strategic deliberate intent to deceive the general public into believing false information. Not all false information on the internet is intentional, but some news outlets certainly seem to thrive on spreading false information in order to drive traffic and generate advertising revenue. This, of course, is not done without deliberate deception. But can we expect such news outlets to stop doing this?
Well, in order to judge this question we need to step back and reassess our media literacy skills. If we have a good working definition of the difference between “News” and “Folklore” then we should be able to tell if the publishers of the fake news stories are deliberately trying to get you to pass a judgment by giving you false information to make you curious. If the publisher of a news story doesn’t make it obvious that what they are saying is a folktale, and you don’t ask any questions, this is a pretty good clue that they are in business to make money, and not to deliver news. And even if they do want to provide news, and provide it with certain characteristics, it would be a hard sell.
Many people who run social media pages tend to believe that everyone who posts on their pages is a person who is real. Therefore, when a story is posted that they consider Fake News, many people see the origin of the false information and think that the news source is credible. This leads many people to pass along the false information to their friends, followers, and email contacts. If the source is willing to provide evidence to prove that it is indeed Fake News, then many will be willing to take it as truth. It is much easier to convince someone that something is true than to confront the validity of their information. But, this makes the problem of false information all the more real, because there are now millions of social media users all over the world spreading false information to each other every minute of every day.
If we can recognize that fake news is taking place, then perhaps we can figure out how to limit its impact, and therefore minimize the damage it causes to our society. For many people, social media sites are tools that allow them to connect with others and form relationships that they otherwise might never have been able to do otherwise. As an education tool, these websites can be an excellent way to share information and build relationships with others. But we must recognize that fake information is often circulating throughout the internet, and if we cannot stop the spread of this false information through our social media pages, then we will eventually destroy the ability for many people to form authentic relationships and trust in our government and other institutions.