Tag Archives: fake news

Fake News: Filter Them Out!

Social media platforms stand in the forefront as the ultimate shared space for engagement. It is difficult to discount the new media age we are now in and how big of a scale the digital and interactive processes have changed throughout the years. As social media sites have now become the leading source for news, users have become participants as a result by spreading and commenting on these news. According to the Pew Research Center, recent studies show that two-thirds (67%) of Americans get their news on social media (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017). From this percentage, there are people who will believe and share these unverified claims. Having said that, content that initiates discussion is the sole factor that makes social networking sites the outlet for posting trending news. Whether it’d be fake or not, these outlets have no filter. Whose responsibility is it then to filter out these fake news? Is it the responsibility of social media companies or social media news consumers?

Following the 2016 US election, fake stories took a toll on the public where it triggered the infamous “Pizzagate” incident (Fisher, Cox, & Hermann, 2016). Since then, social media companies struggled to make their platform as democratic and as civil as possible. As expected, it is very time consuming and costly for social media companies to address the problem of fake news. However, Facebook has taken the initiative to combat election interference last month as a way to address the fake news situation. Watch Mark Zuckerberg outline the company’s plan to fight election interference in this short video below:

The 9 steps as stated in the video:

  1. Continue working with the US government
  2. Continue internal Facebook investigation
  3. Make political ads more transparent
  4. Strengthen ad review
  5. Increasing election security and integrity
  6. Expand election partnerships globally
  7. Increasing collaboration with other tech companies
  8. Strengthen the democratic process
  9. Continue work monitoring the German election

From what Zuckerberg explained, it seems like providing publisher information is Facebook’s ultimate way at fighting fake news. To put that into action, Facebook has recently launched a new feature where there would be a lowercase “i” next to articles. The “info” button supposedly allows Facebook users to look more into the news sources with just a click (This Is Facebook’s Latest Idea to Fight Fake News, 2017).

What is funny is that the public is reacting negatively to this and calling this “fake news” instead. I found the same video above uploaded on YouTube by many different users and every one of them has as many dislikes as likes. And from what I can see in the comment section, most users are criticizing the nature of the “truth” in the video, claiming that Facebook is the one undermining democracy through censorship and attacking the US government and Zuckerberg himself. Along with their plan, the company handed 3000 Russia-linked ads, which contributed to spreading misleading information before the 2016 election, over to the US congress. Despite all of these attempts to fight fake news, Facebook continues to be criticized for the dissemination of fake stories following last year’s presidential election. Ultimately, the nature of the “truth” is questioned by many people since fake news appears to have the tendency to impact public knowledge. While social media companies like Facebook attempts to address the situation of fake news, many people are triggered by its validity and perhaps, the profit that social networking sites are making is the reason why people have trust issues.

Fake news or not, some social media platforms have no intentions to filter out fake news and they don’t have to. This is because social media companies operate on them. They make money off of these lies and there is an economy that follows it (Fake news and online harassment, 2016). Fake stories get people talking and that is the main reason why social media platforms are an ideal space for engagement. Social media consumers are able to share, like, dislike, comment, post, tweet which creates this online community that welcomes everyone, including their thoughts. People are active and online discussing the topic despite it being good or bad, or true or false, and this type of behaviour brings in money. This is essentially where Internet revenues and profit come from. On Twitter for example, fake news are capable of generating thousands of tweets and retweets. With this significant amount, Twitter is using this engagement factor to get sponsorships from advertisers and to put this into perspective, Twitter earns 85 percent of its revenues from advertising (Fake news and online harassment, 2016). Fake news are strong drivers of profit and if we can’t rely on social media companies to filter out these fake news, can we, as social media news consumers, make a difference? Are we able to identify what is fake and what is real?

How do you identify fake news? Even with social media companies’ attempts to provide tools for users to get more context on the news source, the most reliable tool is to use your own common sense (Annett, 2017). Remember, trust no one.

First, filter out the sites that you don’t know. Ask yourself if you trust the source of the information first. Especially the ones that you don’t normally visit, the ones that just have pure entertainment value, or the ones that you know are the usual suspects of fake news. Trust your instinct and use your common sense because that will narrow down your options of which ones to skip and which ones to trust. Next, look for indicators that verifies its validity and credibility. For example, many social media platforms now have the blue verification checkmark beside their username. Aside from that, look out for misspelled words because that will discount their reliability. Lastly, see if they are in tuned with other news sources because social networking sites can be inconsistent so make sure the details match up (Annett, 2017).

We have all encountered fake news at one point since our generation is so consumed by the new media. Rather than saying the world is getting bigger, the world is actually getting smaller because we are connected to news from different parts of the world through the Internet. We are able to expand our knowledge about the world and stay connected with everyone. Because we are so connected, it makes it easier for us to be exposed to outrageous and unverified claims. And the more we see something, the more we believe it. Since fake news have the potential to become viral, it also makes it easier for us to believe in them. Fake news are everywhere at this point but with the appropriate steps, we can avoid them.

References

Annett, E. (2017, June 19). What is ‘fake news,’ and how can you spot it? Try our quiz. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/community/digital-lab/fake-news-quiz-how-to-spot/article33821986/?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theglobeandmail.com&

Fake news and online harassment are more than social media byproducts – theyre powerful prof… (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www.salon.com/2016/12/17/fake-news-and-online-harassment-are-more-than-social-media-byproducts-theyre-powerful-profit-drivers/

Fisher, M., Cox, J. W., & Hermann, P. (2016, December 06). Pizzagate: From rumor, to hashtag, to gunfire in D.C. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/pizzagate-from-rumor-to-hashtag-to-gunfire-in-dc/2016/12/06/4c7def50-bbd4-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html?utm_term=.678557d48678

This Is Facebook’s Latest Idea to Fight Fake News. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2017/10/05/facebook-test-more-info-button-fake-news/

Shearer, E., & Gottfried, J. (2017, September 07). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/

 

Who Can We Trust in the Age of ‘Fake News’?

In the new age of social media and content production, many people are finding themselves in a black hole of information that may or may not be true. Often, the things we read online have been fabricated, been blown out of proportion, or is just clickbait. Many readers of online news consume this digital information passively and very rarely engage with the text to research more about the topic.

With technology rapidly growing every day and the fast pace of developed economies, immediacy is at the forefront of consumer culture. Consumers are conditioned to expect information presented to them at face value rather than taking the time to click through to more sites to learn more about a topic. Technology is allowing people to create and produce more creative content that hides it’s credibility through seemingly (but not) verified sources that come across as believable and real to the untrained eye. The immediacy of media is incriminating some news sources and putting their reputations at risk. People are now finding themselves unable to trust the news and are looking for multiple sources for the truth.

When we think of “Fake News” we think of Donald Trump, he is at the centre of this fake news epidemic. Let’s first take a look at the ongoing issue Donald Trump has with “Fake News” or NBC and CNN, tweeting about how dishonest these new sources are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

True that these news sources aren’t the most reputable but it’s ironic that the news source he does trust (Fox News) is even less reputable than NBC and CNN.

According to this study done by Michael W. Kearney on which news sources are and are not trusted (with Trump ranking as the fifth least trusted source) NBC and CNN rank higher as more trusted than Fox News.

But with over 40.5 million followers on Twitter, it is no surprise that some people will take this advice seriously because he is at a position of power, especially through the internet where he has the autonomy to Tweet at random his honest opinions.

Buzzfeed is listed as the second least trustworthy news source, but until recently I had never considered it as a news source at all because of its predominant entertainment value. Buzzfeed, for me was a website that consisted of personality quizzes, cat pictures and gifs representing the struggles of the female body, but this is beside the point. Buzzfeed caters to a passive viewership, it’s content is far from “news”, but it is a news source, nonetheless, that “poses a fresh challenge for traditional media companies as they battle for web users’ time and attention” (Halliday, 2013).

Obviously social media has changed how we communicate. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and others have allowed for unmediated publishing. It has generated a viewership and audience responsiveness that is immediate, thus creating a culture where information spreads like a wildfire. Social media has given people the experience and opportunity to voice their opinions or communicate with others while separating themselves from the real world in what John Suler dubs “dissociative anonymity“. This has made it easy for people to separate their actions from real life by publishing false content and passing it off as truth. With this immediacy people are conditioned to expect in the digital age of social media, these false news stories are mostly not fact checked and are shared worldwide before people have the chance to question it’s legitimacy.

New sources tend to follow this trend of immediacy as events and situations are being broadcasted in real time across the globe. People assume the things they read from these news sources are factual because of the way the news story is presented, usually with statistics, quotes, and sources (sometimes false or taken out of context) and don’t bother to ask further questions.

I think this hoax interview with ‘Jude Finisterra’ from The Yes Men impersonating a Dow Chemical Spokesperson on BBC World promising compensation for the victims of the Bhopal chemical disaster in India 20 years later is a great example of how reputable news sources can have their faults and the how immediacy of the media can be taken advantage of.

After the truth was revealed that ‘Finisterra’ who had appeared on BBC was a hoaxer and was part of the Yes Men’s stunt as part of a contemporary art agenda to “impart a significant political message through the media” (Kim, 2014), the BBC had quickly pulled the video and issued statements claiming they were victims of this elaborate hoax and that “its procedures regarding the trustworthiness of information obtained from websites would be reviewed” (Wells and Ramesh, 2004). Although we can argue it was incredibly problematic to present this piece of art in the context of reality, this incident forces consumers of news media to take a step back and question the legitimacy of the source of their information.

Many hoaxes (some not nearly as elaborate as this) have fooled a wider audience and have generated talk surrounding the situation. This reminds me of Wikipedia and it’s questionable legitimacy in the past, before editors started to crack down on verifiability, where people were allowed to edit pages and create new pages of their own free will, sparking a culture of hoax Wikipedia pages with fake sources.

As someone whose content revolves around the concept of lying and generating fake content, I have to step back and ask myself how this fits into the world of social media and the credibility of news. Am I contributing to the fake news epidemic? In some ways you could argue that yes, I am a creator of fake news and I am teaching my audience to be creators of fake news. But, the way we use this knowledge and information is ultimately up to the users who hold the information. I am merely providing the tools for creating this type of content.

Like the Yes Men, how do we justify how we use this information for the greater public? I think this is a question we all have to ask ourselves as online content creators whose credibility is important to the wider audience. Is this content being published in the context of reality or in our own public spheres online and does it affect the consumer’s lives in real life? I think this is a question of morality that we have to address within ourselves.

 

Sources:

Halliday, Josh. 2013. “11 things you need to know about Buzzfeed” The Guardian, 6 Jan. 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/jan/06/buzzfeed-social-news-open-uk

Kearney, Michael W. 2017. “Trusting News Project Report 2017.” Reynolds Journalism Institute, 25 July. 2017, https://www.rjionline.org/reporthtml.html

Kim, Adela H. 2014. “Yes Men Bhopal Legacy.” The Harvard Crimson, 5 Mar. 2014. http://www.thecrimson.com/column/the-art-of-protest/article/2014/3/5/art-of-protest-the-bhopal-legacy/

Ramesh, Randeep, and Matt Wells. 2004. “BBC reputation hit by Bhopal interview hoax.” The Guardian, 4 Dec. 2004, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2004/dec/04/india.broadcasting

razorfoundation. “Bhopal Disaster – BBC – The Yes Men.” 2007. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiWlvBro9eI

Suler, John. 2004. “The Online Disinhibition Effect.” Available from: Cyberpsychology & behavior 7.3 (2004): 321-326. http://truecenterpublishing.com/psycyber/disinhibit.html

Trump, Donald (realDonaldTrump). “I will be interviewed tonight on @FoxNews by @SeanHannity at 9pmE. Enjoy!” 11 Oct 2017. 5:32 pm. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/918227740700102657. Tweet.

Trump, Donald (realDonaldTrump). “People are just now starting to find out how dishonest and disgusting (FakeNews) @NBCNews is. Viewers beware. May be worse than even @CNN!” 12 Oct. 2017. 8:12 pm. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/918630610167529472. Tweet.

You Won’t Believe How People Make Thousands of Dollars With FAKE NEWS (Not Clickbait)

I bet that title was pretty intriguing, you probably clicked on it thinking this article would teach you how to make money. Looks like you fell for the clickbait. It said not clickbait in the title? It’s 2017. We all know that if the article doesn’t have a clickbait title no one will read it. However, this post will show you what fake news is, how clickbait works, and how people make money writing fake news. Moreover, this article will prove that fake news can create real money.

Fake news, false news, or whatever you want to call it, is everywhere right now. I don’t mean to say that everything is fake news, but everyone is being made highly aware that it is out there, especially if you paid any attention to the 2016 US presidential election. But what is fake news? Well if you are Donald Trump, fake news seems to be any story that views you in a negative light. According to Penn State University’s library fake news is:

“Sources that intentionally fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports”, (Novotny, 2017).

Now this type of content is different than satire, rumour mills, and junk science but it does often use clickbait. Unfortunately for creators of fake news, clickbait titles aren’t enough to spread fake news. One of the huge ways that fake news is spread is through automated accounts or “bots,” (arXiv, 2017). This is very scary because without direct intervention from sites like Facebook and Twitter people can create thousands of these accounts and manipulate algorithms to spread their fake news. The people creating these bots are smart, they are designing them to direct the fake news tweets/posts at influential users, (arXiv, 2017). This is concerning because influential users can create real momentum if they share what the bots are feeding them. This would then result in their huge followings receiving the fake news. A real example of this is a story that ran on a website called the “Christian Times Newspaper.” It used the momentum of an idea Donald Trump mentioned when he said he was afraid the election would be rigged for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 US Presidential election. The website then ran a fake story about how tens of thousands of fake Hillary Clinton ballets were found in a house in Columbus. This story reached approximately six million people, (Berman, 2017). This is an example of the scary power fake news holds. In sum, fake news is created; it is shared by bot accounts on social media, and then is shared to a plethora of influential users that create real buzz around the articles. This is how fake news is spread.

The big question is how do people make money from spreading fake news? Two ways that fake news websites make money are through advertising networks and posting sponsored content, (Gillin, 2017). Firstly, looking at advertising networks, people can connect their websites to third party advertisers who will pay the user a fraction of a cent per click, (Gillin, 2017). Obviously a fraction of a cent is not much money, but if you multiply that by hundreds of thousands of times people can make some serious money. Secondly, people use sponsored content to make money for their websites. This method works similarly to the first method. Instead it uses advertisements that are designed to look like real articles, (Gillin, 2017). For example, if you see a post titled something like, “this new soap will blow your mind,” and then you click it to read information about some soap product and want to buy it. That is sponsored content. Adding to the example above about the fake news that there were tens of thousands of fake Hillary ballots ready to be used in the 2016 US Presidential election, the man who created that website made roughly $22,000 from that post and other various hoaxes. Not only that, but his website at one point was worth $125,000, (Berman, 2017). To sum up, people have been able to monetize their fake news websites to make real money from advertising in the form of advertising networks and sponsored content.

In conclusion, fake news is apparent and is being spread to us like wildfire. The use of clickbait and automated social media accounts to spread it has significantly affected people’s lives. People have been able to set up fake websites, write fake news, and monetize that content to make actual money. The era of fake news has hit us hard since the 2016 US Presidential election and is unlikely to be curbed until major changes continue to be made by the social platforms that share it. Now you know that fake news can make real money.

References

arXiv. (2017). First evidence that social bots play a major role in spreading fake news. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608561/first-evidence-that-social-bots-play-a-major-role-in-spreading-fake-news/

Berman, N. (2017). The victims of fake news. Columbia Journalism Review, 56(2), 60-67. Retrieved from http://proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=125432045&site=ehost-live

Gillin, J. (2017). The more outrageous, the better: How clickbait ads make money for fake news sites. Retrieved from http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/article/2017/oct/04/more-outrageous-better-how-clickbait-ads-make-mone/

Novotny, E. (2017). “Fake” news. Retrieved from http://guides.libraries.psu.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/fakenews

¯\_()_/¯

@jessefinkle

Essay #1

Fake news are not the products of the modern era. In the past, politicians also use propaganda to fit their own needs. Also, in some countries, traditional media such as newspapers and magazines are controlled and censored by the government who would only approve contents that are not against the government. However, the reason why fake news became an important issue was due to the development of Internet and social media platforms as we are entering the digital era. Fake news always exist but their power grows when the method to spread information changed.

How Did Internet and Social Media Platforms Influence Fake News?
The development of Internet and social media platforms had cleared a lot of barriers on the publishing and the spreading of fake news. In an article from The Telegraph, the author James Carson summarized three ways how social media revolution influenced fake news.
First, the creation of Facebook, Twitter and WordPress decreased the cost to publish and to distribute news. For traditional paper media, it may take hours or days to collect information, to edit content and to print those contents on paper. However, with the assistance of social media platform, it would save a lot of time and money to publish information. Second, various social media platforms had increased the accessibility of fake news to a large amount of audiences. Also, because of the lowered cost, publishers of fake news would not worry about the building of trust and the consequence of losing trust. Third, it was difficult to regulate online social media by law. Most publishers of fake news are anonymous individuals. Without regulation and restriction, online publishers would not worry about taking responsibility of their behaviors.

In my opinion, I agree with the author. The social media platform had speed up the information exchange in a good way. However, speeding up the sharing of fake news was one of its side effect.

How Powerful is Fake News?
A group of scholars from Stanford University had conducted studies on the role of fake news on 2016 US presidential election.

First, in order to test the significance of social media, they conducted a post-election online survey among 1200 people. The results showed that only 14 per cent of Americans considered social media as the most important sources of information during the election (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). Later, they also used fake stories and placebo stories to conduct an experiment. After a series of calculation, they estimated that a single fake news story had a persuasion rate equivalent to seeing 36 television campaign ads (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017).

In my opinion, we are surrounded by high technology and digital products in urban cities. We become attached to online social media platform to the extent that we ignored the other sources of information. We became biased and even tend to omit the fact that there are certain per cent of people who still rely on newspaper or TV as dominant source of information. Therefore, I believed that the power of fake news could be huge but it was also limited only to people who frequently use social media platforms.

What Can We Do with Fake News?
Understanding the role of social media platforms on fake news and the limited influence of fake news, the next question would be what we could do with fake news.

As a person who could not live without social media platform, I would suggest myself and other users of social media platform to raise awareness of fake news. This is the first step. Lipkin is the executive director of National Association for Media Literacy Education. She believed that “Education is key and is our most powerful weapon against falsehoods.” (Padgett, 2017). We should understand that somehow we are more or less biased but the key to avoid falling in the trap of fake news is education.

On the other hand, I think it was also the responsibility of the social media platforms to make regulations on their users’ online behaviors. Some may worry that it could damage the freedom of speech of their users but I believed that our online behavior should be regulated as our offline behaviors. Purposely spreading false news should be identified and banned. Recently, Facebook began using third-party fact-checkers and gave its users the ability to manually report fake news posts (Tarantola, 2017). It is unsure if the solution would work but it indicated that at least, social media platform companies had moved towards solving the fake news problem.

To conclude, I found that fake news always exist but during recent years, Internet and social media platforms had amplify the power of fake news. However, according to studies, the influence of fake news may not be as huge as we expected. To minimize the damage of fake news, social media users should educate themselves and social media companies should make policies to manage their online communities.

References

Allcott, H., Gentzkow,M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Retrieved from https://web.stanford.edu/~gentzkow/research/fakenews.pdf

Carson, J. (2017). What is fake news? Its origins and how it grew under Donald Trump. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/fake-news-origins-grew-2016/

Padgett, L. (2017). Filtering Out Fake News: It All Starts With Media Literacy. Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/it/jan17/Padgett–Filtering-Out-Fake-News.shtml

Tarantola, A. (2017). Facebook now flags fake news. Retrieved from https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/06/facebook-now-flags-fake-news/

I Am: Political

Trapped in the Facebook Bubble

Over the past few months there has been a heightened conversation among internet users on the inundation of fake news sites and the harm it causes the education of our people. Wether it is a falsified prediction of U.S. voter turnout or a sensationalized coverage of an entertainment event, these fake news sources skew the way people view the world and misinform populations of people who have been taught to accept information without question. In light of the recent United States Election, the prominence of fake news has come to the forefront. When these fake sources are circulated online, specifically on social media platforms like Facebook, we run the risk of falling into an echo chamber of false information and filtered truths.

As online contributors, it is crucial to be aware of the sources we use and of the content we reference, especially in times of social and political turmoil. Since the new and popularly criticized president of the United States was elected, talk around the digital mistakes we have and continue to make has risen. Before this tumultuous election, terms like “echo chamber”, “filter bubble”, and “fake news” were really only known and popular amongst an intellectual crowd. Since President Trump has set foot in office, however, these terms have infiltrated many internet infrastructures.

In 2011, Eli Pariser went to TED to share his online concerns in a talk titled “Beware online “filter bubbles””. In this talk Eli touched on the lack of control individuals hold in the personalization of their filtered feed of information and how detrimental this is to both the knowledge and awareness of the individual and democracy itself. In describing the way platforms like Facebook and Google personalize content to show us what they think we would like to see rather than what we need to see, he used the analogy of a balanced diet. Pariser stated that in an ideal world we would have an equal balance between enjoyment and pleasure based content and political or crucial content for the health of democracy, or in his words “some information vegetables […] some information dessert.” (5:30-5:35) What happens when online algorithms base the information we see on the information we like, or click on, is we are essentially surrounded by “information junk food.” (5:50-6:00) This metaphor not only emphasizes the toxicity of filter bubbles, but perfectly captures the appearance of fake and sensationalized news.

Disguised as a healthy meal, and coated with a self-satisfying sensation, this information junk food is displayed all over the internet, and its click-bate design makes it nearly impossible to avoid indulging. Our use of computers and the internet for both work and play subconsciously blurs the lines between professional and recreational communication, making fake news harder to spot. (Frank) Author Russell Frank explains in “Caveat Lector: Fake News as Folklore” that he himself has fallen victim to fake news. After reading multiple articles that appeared to be reliable and were written in a journalistic style, he discovered that in fact all of the sources were falsified. (Frank) These nearly indistinguishable fake news stories slip into voters feeds and provide them with exaggerated and misstated information. A reporter from Buzzfeed, Craig Silverman, explained that fake election news was  shared, commented on and reacted to 20% more than real election news in the months leading to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Berghel)

Once these fake news stories enter the realm of voters and citizens internet sphere, the likeliness of them circulating is very high. John Bohannon, writer of “Is Facebook keeping you in a political bubble?”, however, states that although the bubble exists, they do not hold the same weight as some may believe. When hosting a case study with over 10 million Americans from varying political beliefs, researchers found that Facebook’s algorithm made it only 1% less likely for stories to cross over into both conservative and liberal Facebook profiles. (Bohannon) After concluding the study, Bohannon explained that regardless of the likeliness of crossover between political viewpoints, these bubbles are still no matter to be taken lightly.

In his 2012 article “‘Social Voting’ Really Does Rock the Vote” he explained the reality of a Facebook herding bias. In 2012 as an attempt to increase voter turnout, Facebook rolled out a prompt on voting day allowing users to click an “I voted” button while displaying photos of six friends who had already voted. For Facebook users who’s friends had already clicked the “I voted” button, there was a 0.39% increase of likeliness for those users to vote. (Bohannon, “‘Social Voting'”) These Facebook statistics were then compared to state voter results, and the percentage held its truth. Although this case study does not reflect exactly on the topic of fake news, it exemplifies the notion that events that take place online have real world translations and effects.

As an online contributor, I feel it is my responsibility to be careful with the content I post and share. Like many others, I have fallen victim to believing fake news, and have even shared it. As someone who has grown up with the internet and social media, my immediate instinct is to trust the platforms on which I operate. In light of recent events, scandals, and with an increase of education, I have made an active decision to question all sources I come into contact with and to think of those who I may influence. It is easy to think that my sharing a fake news story on Facebook will have little to no impact on the world around me. What is challenging is accepting that what happens online extends into real life, and that the filter bubble we see on Facebook has more control over us than we may believe.

 

Works Cited

Berghel, Hal. “Lies, Damn Lies, and Fake News.” Computer 50.2 (2017): 80-85. Ieee Xplore. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
Beware Online “filter Bubbles”. Perf. Eli Pariser. TED. N.p., Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.
Bohannon, John. “Is Facebook Keeping You in a Political Bubble?” Science (2015): n. pag. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
Bohannon, John. “‘Social Voting’ Really Does Rock the Vote.” Wired. Conde Nast, 13 Sept. 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
Frank, R. “Caveat Lector: Fake News as Folklore.” Journal of American Folklore, vol. 128 no. 509, 2015, pp. 315-332. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/589183.

Essay: I Want YOU! (to stop spreading fake news).

Incorporating a business into the world of social media can be challenging. The competition to grab the attention of people scrolling through their newsfeeds requires more than bright colours and click bait. Your content has to be relevant and easily accessible. But more importantly, your content should be something that people want to hear about. Otherwise the backlash can be staggering. Recently the Donnelly Group, an independent business based out of Vancouver that owns pubs such as the Bimini and the Lamplighter, made another shift in their business by purchasing the now closed Railway Club. The Railway Club had been a Vancouver staple since the 30s, but fell out of business after it’s last owner couldn’t keep it up. Then when he couldn’t see it they shut it down. When Vancouver local Jeff Donnelly decided to buy the club one would think enthusiasts would rejoice, right?

Wrong. Shortly after the news broke the CBC released an article interviewing partner Chad Cole on the future of the club, where in the interview he stated that “unfortunately [live music]’s not going to be a core element of this new pub.” The news of the Donnelly Group buying out the club spread like wildfire over Facebook and the comment sections of Georgia Straight articles and those done by Vancity Buzz were alive with internet rage. Comments ranged from “For most people The Railway Club is synonymous with live music…to bring the place back without live music is very disappointing” to “I’d rather tear it down than turn it into another generic vapid soulless chain bar. Not going” to calling out employees who work there: “…then the greasy, little floor manager comes over and says “how can I make this right for you?” What a joke”.

The anger was on. But despite the complaints of no live music, the article continued to explain that there would in fact be live music, just not as frequently as the venue had in the past. A follow up article was released emphasising that there would be at least four nights of live music a week due to the backlash. As for the “bad beer, worse food”, the Donnelly Group actually sources almost all of their beer and food locally, and is a proud supporter of local breweries and sponsor of Vancouver events. If any of the commenters had attempted to do the smallest bit of research into this new group that was reviving their so-called favourite establishment when nobody else would, they would learn all of this. This is the effect of social media news.

People have gotten used to bite sized pieces of information. Today things are limited to 140 characters, 7 second videos and status updates to express huge events in our lives. When our attention span has been trained to be so short, all we read is the headline. The drawback is that these headlines can be misleading and often don’t give people the correct information. Pre-conceived biases people hold can be triggered by a negative headline they don’t agree with or enlightened by one that they do. How many times have you “liked” or reacted to an article’s headline without clicking on the link? According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 62% of U.S. adults get their news on social media. NPR reported that a Stanford survey conducted found that 80% of middle schoolers in 12 states couldn’t tell the difference between fake and real news. Based on the comments sections of certain Facebook articles, I’d wager that percentage would only be slightly less for adults. Fake news is effective because people believe what they want to believe. They want something to talk about, and when everyone has their own internet soapbox, it’s easy to yell your opinion into the void, however misinformed it may be. People see a title that supports their way of thinking and because it’s a “published” piece of writing, they cling on to that.

Publishing has changed now that Facebook is in play. In the Columbia Journalism Review’s article “Facebook is eating the world”, writer Emily Bell states “The future of publishing is being put into the hands of the few who control the destiny of the many.” Facebook’s power of news distribution is huge, and who can say what will and will not be published when people’s views of the truth have become so obscure, and even the president is spewing lies in national addresses. The technological powerhouses such as Google, Facebook and Apple have all started to dip their toes in the new industry, with Apple recently launching “Apple News” to add to the growing list of sources.

“When facts don’t work and voters don’t trust the media, everyone believes in their own truth.” claims Katharine Viner in her essay for the Guardian, published in July of last year. For a piece written over six months ago, the statements couldn’t be more true now. The world of publishing and how we receive and even accept our news is changing, and people blowing a restaurant chain out of proportion is just a small example. Incidents like #pizzagate that start off ridiculous and lead to shootings could just be the tip of the iceberg if people don’t start being more responsible for the news that they choose to regurgitate.

But the public doesn’t always believe they have time, or even consider looking deeper into the articles they’re being fed. In an attempt to stop the catcall of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, websites like Teen Vogue and Slate are attempting to educate their readers on how to spot false articles, with Slate even going so far as to create a Chrome extension that actually highlights articles on your newsfeed as possibly false if they come from uncredible sources. Despite this attempt, Slate’s headline for the announcement gives off the real message: “Only you can stop the spread of fake news.” The message is clear, and if people have a duty to themselves and to those around them to believe that the truth is not subjective when it comes to delivering facts. In the end, that’s what news media has always been and what we must fight to make it today.

Sources:

1. Bell, Emily. “Facebook is eating the world.” Columbia Journalism Review. March 7, 2017. http://www.cjr.org/analysis/facebook_and_media.php.
2. Colglazier, William. “The Best TIps for Spotting Fake News in the Age of Trump.” Teen Vogue. January 17, 2017. http://www.teenvogue.com/story/the-best-tips-for-spotting-fake-news-in-the-age-of-trump.
3. Domonoske, Camila. “Students have “dismaying” inhibility to tell fake news from real, study finds. .” NPR. November 23, 2016. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/23/503129818/study-finds-students-have-dismaying-inability-to-tell-fake-news-from-real.
4. Gottfried, Jeffery, and Elisa Shearer. “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016.” Pew Research Center. May 26, 2016. http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/.
Oremus, Will. “Only You Can Stop the Spread of Fake News. .” Slate. December 13, 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2016/12/introducing_this_is_fake_slate_s_tool_for_stopping_fake_news_on_facebook.html.
5. Viner, Katharine. “How technology disrupted the truth.” The Guardian. July 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth.