Fake news is self-explanatory – information that has little or no factual basis. It’s always been around in some way, but 2016 – the year of the US presidential election campaign– is when it became a widespread issue.
Why does it exist?
Fake news has always been used to further agendas – historically political, but more recently monetarily. Published on the internet, this type of news embellished the truth to create inflammatory articles that would attract more people (“Pope Backs Trump!” is an infamous example). This meant more views of advertisements and therefore more money for the people creating the articles.
How much of a problem is it?
Fake news has had a sizable impact in the world, with one fake conspiracy resulting in a misguided gunman opening fire at a pizzeria! It also may have influenced opinions in the election, during which conspiracy theories and making provocative statements were widespread. It was found that in the last 3 months of the election fake news was actually more popular than the real thing (according to BuzzFeed).
How can I identify and avoid it?
To begin with, it helps to pay close attention to the source. Websites which publish “news” designed to be satirical and obviously fake (The Onion and The Daily Mash are two examples) should not be taken seriously or out of context. Furthermore, if an article isn’t from a reputed website and lacks any evidence or references, it shouldn’t be trusted until you can verify it. Finally, don’t take any leaks or social media posts at face value unless the account(s) in question is reliable– and even then, stay cautious.
How can I stop the spread?
If you encounter any of these, be sure to warn people about their untrustworthiness. That way, fewer people come to these websites, reducing their influence. Also, be sure to avoid spreading unsubstantiated posts on social media as you could unwittingly be adding to the already abundant fake news.
By Mohamed Omar