What do you want to hear first, the good news , the bad news… or the fake news? factor.
Fake news has become a byword, thanks in part to U.S. President Donald Trump’s propensity for calling out on Twitter, any negative press about him as “fake news.” But what is fake news really and how does one spot it?
Fake news refers to false information or propaganda being peddled to the public as authentic news. Even before it attained such magnitude on a digital scale, however, the fake news was already getting people persecuted and murdered such as during the Salem witch hunt trials. Back then the fake news was simply called propaganda.
Even the cunning Octavian reportedly resorted to black propaganda against Mark Antony that incited the Roman people against the latter, triggering the events that eventually led to Mark and Cleopatra committing suicide. The very first fake news, however, has got to be the one closest to the hearts of Christians: the devil telling Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would give her wisdom and make her become like God.
With the advent of computers and smartphones, lies became gossip on steroids. With the likes of Twitter and Facebook serving as perfect breeding grounds, the fake news became mainstream.
Indeed, fake news, no matter how sensationalized, may not be the sole reason Clinton lost, but one Clinton story was reportedly shared on Facebook 568,000 times and earned over 15.5 million impressions. If you do the math, it’s not hard to imagine the power of fake news as a game influencer.
Which brings us to the question: If fake news can wreak so much havoc, how does one spot it in the first place before countries start nuking each other to kingdom come? More importantly, how can it be stopped?
Unfortunately, stopping the spread of fake news in its tracks may be a highly ambitious, if not downright impossible, endeavor. Spreading lies online happens to be a very lucrative business (one man who manages several fake news websites reportedly earns as much as $30,000 a month from advertising), so there are a lot of people who want a slice of the pie.
Another reason is that practically anyone with a computer or smartphone and Internet access regardless of mental soundness can act like a mini media outlet and be a bearer of (fake) news these days. They log online, see some content that jives with their pre-existing beliefs and values, and they just click the share button.
In April, Facebook rolled out these tips on how to identify fake news. From the URL to the photo, to the timelines included in the story, one can already glean insights as to whether or not a story is worth reading and sharing. These tips may not be without loopholes, but with the information overload that a conduit as disorganized and unrestricted as cyberspace bombards us with on a daily basis, the main responsibility of policing fake news lies on us the readers.