Fake news stories started to circulate heavily on social media during the election cycle a few months back. Even though the election is over, fake news is still being shared more than factual news. This has proven to be very divisive, particularly on social media. Keep reading for our tips on how to decipher real from fake news and how to be proactive about doing your part to shut it down.
Why It’s So Hard to Stamp Out
Before we get into why fake news can’t be dismissed with fact-checking, it’s important to understand the circumstances under which fake news is shared.
- There are people who share fake new stories, unaware that what they’re sharing is false/inaccurate.
- Some people who share or produce fake news intend it to be perceived as satire. Not everyone understands it’s a joke and they end up thinking the fake story is true.
- Finally, there are people who deliberately share or produce fake news to be deceptive, fully aware what they’re sharing is false.
Fact-checking might seem like the obvious solution for silencing fake news stories that go viral. But generally speaking, the people who are consuming these stories are already suspicious of the mainstream media and will probably not trust them enough to fact-check.
Another reason that this is a difficult trend to put to rest is because people like partisanship. When people find a news article that backups their beliefs, they share it with other people who have those similar beliefs and it spreads like wildfire.
How Fake News Spreads on Social Media
On Facebook and Twitter, the fake news has been a perpetual problem this year. The reason false news is so prevalent on social media is because people share it as a means of identifying themselves as part of a certain community. By sharing a post on Facebook or retweeting something, they don’t mean to persuade their audience, but rather reflect a groups’ tastes and beliefs they stand behind. Google is following suit by banning false news sites from using their ad-selling service.
In the last three months before the election, the top 20 fake stories outperformed the top 20 factual stories. In response to this problem, Facebook is now seeking ways to weed out fake news stories from appearing in feeds.
Even if you know someone is sharing a fake story, it’s hard to correct their mistake on social media. They’ll probably see you as a nay-sayer with opposing views.
Your Responsibility As a Consumer
Fake news is harmful and divisive, and its negative effects have been clear on social media. You as the reader are responsible for consuming, distributing, and hopefully refuting false news stories if and when you come across them. Here are tips on how you can try to decipher the real from the fake:
- Keep reading beyond the headline before you click ‘Share’
- Check your source — this includes the outlet and author.
- Check THEIR sources – who are they using for validation?
- Look at when the article was originally published
Next time you’re scrolling through Twitter or Facebook, we hope you keep these four tips in your back pocket and remain wary of the large mass of fake news that is online.