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Fake news affects people’s understanding of the world

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By Sara Taslim, Guest Blogger

With the development of modern technology, social media plays a major role in real world events, yet it can be very easily misused.

One dangerous problem with the increasing use of social media is the spread of fake news, and the inability to tell the difference between factual and fabricated news.

Through fake news, online viewers often get confused about political events and actions, which can have major consequences in terms of voting during election time. The impact of fake news on society has been especially evident since the 2016 U.S. elections.

A survey done by Buzzfeed shows that fake news stories have been more popular and have circulated more on Facebook than real news stories. Because many people rely heavily on social media as a news source, false news stories can encourage the spread of rumours, which can be hard to stop. Misinformation can become hard to correct, and can continue to shape beliefs and ideologies for a long period of time.

Research done by corporations and universities, including Stanford University, indicate that the progression of new and advanced technology will make it almost impossible to detect fake news. Computer advancements and digital creations also make it easier to produce fake news in different formats such as audio and video.

The danger of fake news continues to rise as technology progresses, and it is estimated that by the 2018 or 2020 U.S. elections, fake news will have a far greater impact on the decisions of the general public.

Research also showed that fake news headlines about the 2016 US elections fooled American adults 75 percent of the time. A survey presented by The Statistics Portal shows that in 2016 in the U.S., 18 percent of respondents say that at least once a day they saw fake news on social media. Another survey shows that, out of U.S. adults, 16 percent of respondents shared a political news piece which they later found out was fake.

Fake news is the spreading and publishing of hoaxes, propaganda, and intentionally misleading information. The two big reasons for the creation and spread of fake news is either profit, or political gain.

For political gain, fake news and made-up stories can be used as a weapon to trick and bribe voters into voting for one party over the other. It can be heavily by political leaders to influence people and win popularity or take away votes from the opposing side. Even if the news is later labeled as fake, in some cases the damage is already done since it can be difficult to get a story out of one’s mind.

A survey conducted by Pew Research Centre in December 2016 shows that a majority of Americans are confused by fake news about basic facts and events. It concludes that fake news has caused 64 percent of adults surveyed great confusion.

Another survey by Pew Research Centre demonstrates that 32 percent of U.S. adults surveyed often see completely made up political news and 51 percent often see inaccurate news on a daily basis.  Around 25 percent confess to sharing stories that they either knew at the time, or later found out were fake.

Fake news has serious effects on people’s understanding of the world, therefore impacting their decisions, especially political ones.
There are different categories of fake news. If a news source provides satire or parody news, it does not have any intention to misinform, but relies heavily on irony and humour to entertain the viewer.

There is also misleading news, which is a little different from fake news, since it can contain both true and false facts. These types of stories can either be told out of context, oversimplified, biased, or overcomplicated, which can misguide the reader.

Trust in the resource, and additional research done to verify the information is crucial for avoiding fake news. Fact checking is important but not everyone feels the need to do so, or doesn’t have the resources or opportunities to do so.

It is important to double check any information received online to make sure it isn’t inaccurate or made up. This, however, can get difficult in places where internet service is slow or unavailable. The Philippines is rated in Asia as one of the countries with the slowest internet speed in. Wi-Fi can get very expensive on mobile in the Philippines, but Facebook comes free with some mobile companies. This can result in some people choosing to use Facebook as a free source of news to save money, over using the internet for legitimate news websites.

Facebook has been working toward stopping the spread of fake news and helping users recognize if what they are seeing is true. It has been working with such organizations as First Draft News to create tools that help people detect and avoid fake news.

Recognizing real news from false news is becoming more and more difficult to do as technology progresses. This is where critical and self-corrective thinking becomes a more important skill for people to have. Analyzing and evaluating information can help reduce the belief in fake news stories.

Some steps that can be taken to detect and avoid fake news include:
1. Consider the source to understand its purpose and see if it is trustworthy.

2. Read into the story, beyond the headline

3. Check the authors to make sure they are real and credible

4.Check if the supporting sources support the claim and story

5. Make sure the story is relevant by checking the date of publication

6. Research to see if it is a joke, or satire news

7. Look at your own biases to make sure they don’t affect your judgment or decision making 

8. Consult experts to get confirmation

Sara Taslim is a Grade 11 student at Richmond Hill High School. As part of her co-op program, she is working as an intern at Lake Simcoe Living. She plans to study law after high school.

 Photo by Brian Jackson,


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