GREAT NEWS!! OR FAKE NEWS??!!
As we all know today that “Fake News” has become a major problem in all parts of the world including our country India. It has lead to staggering consequences like mob lynching in India to resurgence of diseases in Brazil. But before jumping directly on the topic, let’s refer to the technical definition for newbies on this topic:
WHAT IS FAKE NEWS?
“Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media”
Fake news is not a new phenomenon and is cited to be present since 13th century BC. But with rapid adoption of Internet and specially social media this has got special attention and now requires serious actions. Lets look at some of the major impacts of fake news in recent times:
FAKE NEWS IMPACTS ON SOCIETY IN RECENT TIMES
1. U.S. Presidential Elections, 2016: It is not a 100% guaranteed information that fake news helped Mr. Donald Trump win the elections but it is quite certain that there was a huge increase in the number of fake news created during election campaigns. One of the fake news writer Paul Horner had an “enormous impact” on the 2016 U.S. presidential elections as reported by CBS News. He tried to attack Trump and his supporters but later realised that instead of hurting his(Trumps) campaign, maybe he helped it.
2. 2,000 Rupee Note with sensors in India: On November 8, 2016, India established a 2,000-rupee currency bill on the same day as the Indian 500 and 1,000 rupee note demonetization. One of the main social media platforms responsible for fake news in India is WhatsApp. It has a user base of over 200 million active users per month. Fake news on whatsapp started spreading at a rapid pace that the new Rs 2,000 note is equipped with sensors which would help in tracking the notes even 120 meters below the earth. All kinds of different sensor and nano technology stories started surfacing on whatsapp and country’s main stream outlets. Finally, finance minister Arun Jaitley had to give a statement denying all such sensor news in order to clear the falsities.
There are a huge number of other examples which one could cite in recent past due to which lives of normal human beings have been affected due to fake news. Recently several mob lynching incidents in India triggered WhatsApp to act immediately and curb such actions. Ok, now before anything else, lets look at how fake news work:
HOW FAKE NEWS WORK?
Fake news industries have started seeing tremendous growth due to social media sites and networks. Jestin Coler, former CEO of the fake media conglomerate Disinfomedia, said who writes fake news articles, who funds these articles, and why fake news creators create and distribute false information. Coler, who has since left his role as a fake news creator, said that his company employed 20 to 25 writers at a time and made $10,000 to $30,000 monthly from advertisements. One of the main reasons these fake news spread so rapidly and come to the news feed is due to the algorithms of these social media sites which serves content to users based on their choice. This is often referred to as a filter bubble. When a user likes a particular content that is specific to a topic from a fake website, these algorithms understands user’s choice and serve them same type of content again due to which user’s keep liking and sharing these same type of content. User is trapped into an information bubble of his own likes. Many organizations create such websites and contents to generate revenues.
TYPES OF FAKE NEWS
Mainly there are 6 types of fake news:
These are stories that are deliberately fabricated to gain more website visitors and increase advertising revenue for websites. Clickbait stories use sensationalist headlines to grab attention and drive click-throughs to the publisher website, normally at the expense of truth or accuracy.
Stories that are created to deliberately mislead audiences, promote a biased point of view or particular political cause or agenda.
Lots of websites and social media accounts publish fake news stories for entertainment and parody. For example; The Onion, Waterford Whispers, The Daily Mash, etc.
4. Sloppy Journalism
Sometimes reporters or journalists may publish a story with unreliable information or without checking all of the facts which can mislead audiences. For example, during the U.S. elections, fashion retailer Urban Outfitters published an Election Day Guide, the guide contained incorrect information telling voters that they needed a ‘voter registration card’. This is not required by any state in the U.S. for voting.
5. Misleadings Headings
Stories that are not completely false can be distorted using misleading or sensationalist headlines. These types of news can spread quickly on social media sites where only headlines and small snippets of the full article are displayed on audience newsfeeds.
6. Biased/Slanted News
Many people are drawn to news or stories that confirm their own beliefs or biases and fake news can prey on these biases. Social media news feeds tend to display news and articles that they think we will like based on our personalized searches.
FIGHTING FAKE NEWS
Fighting fake news is not job of one person or organization. It is a collective effort. All social media platforms and IT giants have agreed that it is not 100% possible to eradicate fake news from their platform completely by themselves. It would require a collective effort to do the same. Before we look at duties of individuals in fighting fake news, let’s look at what social media giants are doing to stop the same:
WhatsApp took the responsibility after mob lynching incident and took help of newspaper media to spread awareness regarding fake news on 10th July. WhatsApp published an Ad on major newspapers in country and provided 10 tips to fight fake news.
Whatapp has launched a feature in its latest update which shows whether the message has been forwarded or not. It has already been beta tested in India and Brazil which has a user base of around 300 million. It will allow users to report a message as spam or contact directly to whatsapp.
Facebook has been recently attacked not only because of spread of fake news which could have affected U.S.Presidential elections in 2016 but it also has been accused of data breach which was used by cambridge analytica. Due to all this facebook has started working towards safety of user data and making tools that help create a better society. Facebook has released a feature of Fact Checker which will associate and dictate as to how reliable and trustable is the source of news. Understanding that freedom of expression is a must required principle for the platform and this could lead to fake news, what facebook does is it reduces future views of the post by 80% when third party fact checker denies truth in it. One such examples is Alex Jones, founder of the InfoWars and a fake news peddler.
3. Google and Youtube
Google has invested $ 300 million and YouTube has invested $ 460 thousand to fight fake news. Google News Initiative and Breaking News Section on YouTube are the result of the same. Youtube has been working out to display news only from authoratative sources and display a warning in case it is not sure that the contents of video might change.
DUTIES OF THE INDIVIDUALS
There are a number of things to watch out for when evaluating content online.
1.Take a closer look Check the source of the story, do you recognise the website? Is it a credible/reliable source? If you are unfamiliar with the site, look in the about section or find out more information about the author.
2.Look beyond the headline Check the entire article, many fake news stories use sensationalist or shocking headlines to grab attention. Often the headlines of fake new stories are in all caps and use exclamation points.
3.Check other sources Are other reputable news/media outlets reporting on the story? Are there any sources in the story? If so, check they are reliable or if they even exist!
4.Check the facts Fake news stories often contain incorrect dates or altered timelines. It is also a good idea to check when the article was published, is it current or an old news story?
5.Check your biases Are your own views or beliefs affecting your judgement of a news feature or report?
6.Is it a joke? Satirical sites are popular online and sometimes it is not always clear whether a story is just a joke or parody… Check the website, is it known for satire or creating funny stories?
FACT CHECKING SITES
Fact Check: https://www.factcheck.org/
Channel 4 Fact Check: https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck
Reverse image search from Google: https://reverse.photos/