Is It Fake News?

So you just opened up Facebook, and you see that someone you’ve never heard of just won the lottery and is asking you (and everyone else) to respond. Just add your name to the post, and they will share. Posts like these are fake news! Just because you read it on Facebook or somebody’s blog doesn’t mean it’s true. The internet is full of made-up news stories, that should be no surprise to anyone by now.

Three Elements.

Three elements contribute to fake news: mistrust, misinformation, and manipulation. We used to get our news from trusted sources, journalists, and media outlets that follow strict codes of practice. To be fair there are legitimate news sources available, but today it’s hard to tell what’s real and what is not. Fake news, propaganda, misinformation, or whatever you call it, is rampant on the Internet and particularly on social media sites.

Types of Fake News.

There are several types of fake news. One of the most prevalent is called click bait. These are deliberately fabricated stories used to increase website visitors and increase revenue for websites. The example at the beginning of this article would be considered click bait. These stories use exaggerated headlines to catch your attention and draw you into a website. Another type of fake news is propaganda. These stories are created to mislead readers and to promote biased points of view or to direct you to a particular political cause. Sometimes fake news is a result of a journalist who doesn’t verify their information or sources. And of course, lots of websites and social media sites publish fake news just for entertainment purposes.

So, what’s the reason for all this? Experts have found that false news is more novel than true news, suggesting people will be more likely to share. In fact, they found that fake stories were 70 percent more likely to be shared than true stories; thus, spreading much faster. Unfortunately, misguided news, gossip, and rumors do not seem to be going away any time soon.

How to know?

How do you know if it is fake? Some things you should do is check the source - is it credible? Read beyond the headline to see if the article makes sense. Check the facts such as dates, or altered time lines. Find out when the article was published. The date might be a clue. You could also run it through a fact-checking site such as snopes.com. They will tell you if it is real or not.

It is your responsibility to help stop the spread of information that is not true. Many of you are influencers within your circle of friends and family. Put in the legwork mentioned above and be sure that you are not the source spreading news and information that is not true.

Most reputable online sites and social media platforms are campaigning against news that misinforms readers. Hopefully, these efforts will make some changes to the kinds of information we get online and on social media in our daily lives.

Next time you are tempted to add your name to a post from someone you have never heard of who wants to share a million dollars with you, don’t - it’s probably fake!

-Lonny Dockendorf, the Broadband Guy