Lesson Plan - Get It!
The United States has the biggest social media platform in the world, with more than 2 billion users. As more people rely on social media for news, it is not always easy to determine which stories are true.
In the 2016 presidential elections, the social media company Facebook, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, was criticized for its inability to prevent false news from spreading across its platform. These untrue stories were viewed 150 million times, which means every voter in the country with a Facebook account likely saw at least one.
- Could that have truly affected their decision on whom to vote for president?
Two years later, in 2018, Facebook was still struggling to remove untrue news stories from its platform. According to the BuzzFeed News article, These Are 50 Of The Biggest Fake News Hits On Facebook In 2018 by Craig Silverman and Scott Pham, Facebook users engaged with false stories nearly 22 million times in 2018. Would you have believed any of these?
- "Lottery winner arrested for dumping $200,000 of manure on ex-boss' lawn"
- "Former first lady Barbara Bush dies at 92"
- "BREAKING: Michael Jordan Resigns From The Board At Nike - Takes 'Air Jordans' With Him"
The advancement in technology has something to do with the rise of fake news, at least in the last decade. People can be easily reached through social media where they can quickly skim through a lot of news that appears to come from a credible source.
Since most people do not take the time to do further research and fact-check, they believe whatever they read. This is when fake news becomes a phenomenon.
What Is Fake News?
Fake news is defined as false information. It is a collection of lies with the objective of deceiving its audience for a variety of reasons including social, political, or financial gain. Fake news falls into two categories:
Stories that are completely false but were given without malice or intent to harm others.
Stories that are completely false with the intent to mislead and deceive its readers.
How Is Fake News Spread?
While many people today rely on the internet for news, there are still a lot of traditional news sources. All of these are capable of spreading fake news:
Print media is not completely outdated. Hundreds of thousands of copies of news articles are printed out by huge companies such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other local newspapers every single day.
While printed news does go through a process of scrutiny and fact-checking, sometimes details can be missed and lead to misinformation.
News broadcasts on radio and television generally undergo the same fact-checking process as print media. However, sometimes misinformation can still happen.
Radio and television are also the biggest platforms for advertisements. You see or hear commercials for medicine, insurance, cars, and other products. The sole objective of these messages is to reach as many customers as possible. While their claims may not be completely false, there is also no guarantee that they are 100% true.
- Internet and Social Media
This is the fastest-growing media with audiences of billions worldwide. It is also the easiest media for those with the intent to mislead and deceive to infiltrate. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Huffington Post, and other web-based media have been faced with scrutiny because of the spread of misinformation through their users.
History of Fake News
- How long has it been around?
People love to gossip, especially on controversial topics; however, this human behavior did not just happen recently. Although the term "fake news" was not generally used before the 2016 presidential election, propaganda with the intent to mislead and gain politically has been around since early history.
Review the following infographics from the informative WizCase article, 13 Facts About Fake News That You Need to Know in 2019, by Mackenzie Pringle:
How to Avoid Fake News
In school, you are taught how to be information- and media-literate despite the fact that you may know a lot more about technology than the average adult nowadays. You are a digital citizen living in a world where everyone, in a few years, will know how to navigate the internet and how to use it to benefit themselves or, even worse, harm others.
Fake news is a serious matter. You need to learn how to quickly distinguish it from truly factual information.
Ask yourself these questions when reading news articles to filter out those that are potentially fake or untrue:
- Who is the author or creator?
A legitimate website will always want to interact with its clients, so look for an About or Contact page on its menu. Domain names that end with .org, .edu, .gov, or .mil are more reliable sources than those ending in .com or .net.
Articles of merit will also include an author, and legitimate authors will have an online profile on that site or through accounts such as LinkedIn.
- What is the content of the news article?
Remember that fake news is created to appear legitimate and convincing. It may be well-written with information that is difficult to fact-check. Read every word carefully to determine the intent of the writer and the gist of the message being conveyed.
Responsible media will be impartial in a way that describes an issue without statements that favor a group or a person.
It does take time to carefully read and research an article to determine if it is real or fake news. If you suspect it contains a bias, the best idea is to avoid sharing it with others. Think before you click may sound like a cliche, but you cannot un-share something later if you discover it is not 100% true.
That was a lot of information, but spotting fake new is easier than you think! Head over to the Got It? section to see how much you have remember.