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fighting fake news

The internet and social media have given rise to an unprecedented level of communication. Our world has become smaller and our reach has become wider. In many ways, this is good news. In other ways, it’s simply fake news. Along with the ability to talk to your friends half a world away, there was the appearance of a kind of digital flim-flam newscaster. More than just an annoyance, the advent of fake news poses a real threat that tries to sway action and opinion through false information. But we can fight back. Here’s how.

History

fighting fake news
“Fake news” began appearing in dictionaries last year

Fake news officially became part of the lexicon in 2017. Both Collins Dictionary (published in Glasgow) and dictionary.com added it to their editions last year. The term first became popular during the 2016 US Presidential election with now President Trump using the term to chastise the media. However, it’s generally used to mean false stories generated online.

Like a Virus

Fake news is spread by you and everyone else. The best way to stop it is to avoid reposting it because viral rumors can have a devastating impact. Consequences of fake news include influencing elections, causing doubts in healthcare, and polarizing a population. If you repost fake news, you’re extending its life and spreading the damage.  This is the case whether you’re supporting a rumor by reposting it and declaring its contents to be true, or reposting it and disputing its truth. The best course of action is inaction—leave fake news alone and let it die.

Be Proactive

Where you can and should take action is in the effort to verify the authenticity of the news you read. Scrutinize that article, especially if you have doubts. Dig a little deeper and seek out the source. It’s easy to react emotionally to something and make a snap judgment, but try to avoid doing this and only repost if you’re sure the information is legitimate.

fighting fake news
Stop the spread of fake news

There are some red flags when it comes to fake news. Take the following into account if what you’re reading doesn’t ring true.

  • Suspect urls
  • Sites run on blogging platforms
  • If you’re on an aggregate news site, go to the original. Is it legitimate? Is the same story being repeated elsewhere?
  • Read the “about” section of a website. Is it straightforward, transparent? Does it say “satire”?
  • How old is the story? What is the original posting date?
  • Is there an obvious bias? News should be neutral and unbiased—a statement of fact.

Fact Check

The purpose of headlines is to get your attention. Try to hold your emotional reaction in check and read more than just the headline. You may discover that the statement that had you so worked up is obviously fake news. Don’t you feel better already? And aren’t you glad you didn’t repost based on a few words in bold print?

If you read an article and it’s setting off alarms, you can try fact-checking it. Sites like Snopes, PolitiFact and FactCheck can help you navigate the truth.  SurfSafe is an app that verifies online images. When you hover over a picture in your browser, SurfSafe checks that photo against dozens of trusted news sites and fact-checking sites to see whether that picture has appeared elsewhere. Remember the rumor that Emma Gonzalez had ripped up a photo of the constitution? The truth is that was a doctored, false image that some used for their own agendas after the Parkland, Florida mass shooting.

Open Your Mind

Take a look at Washington Post’s project, Blue Feed Red Feed, which displays simulated Republican and Democrat newsfeeds next to each other. The two newsfeeds are like different realities. If you read only the feed from one side or the other, you would be presented with incongruous views of the world. This is an examination of what self-declared “Right” or “Left” leaning Facebook users were posting in relation to news appearing in their feeds. It’s a stark representation of bias and how surrounding ourselves with only like-minded people can lead to a skewed worldview.

fighting fake news
Don’t turn your back on people outside your comfort zone

Even though it may be difficult to listen to an opinion unlike your own, doing so will make it easier to recognize fake news. Try NOT to isolate yourself. Everyone has a right to their opinion within the realm of the law and basic human decency. So listen to the opposition and be aware of what’s going on in your world. Try to have an open mind. When you surround yourself with like-minded people, they confirm your world view and keep you in a bubble.

Power to Truth

Fake news is a lie by definition. Make it a priority to verify your news sources. With accurate information, you can form opinions and make informed decisions. And if you need help spreading the truth with a video, call us today for a free estimate.

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