Fake News: The Rise of Misinformation

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Fake News: The Rise of Misinformation

The rise of fake news makes it difficult for a lot of people to tell whether stories are true or not / Photo by Getty Images

 

The sharing of information is extremely important for hundreds of reasons. It is essential in many industries around the world. The circulation of news is also significant in making people aware of what’s going on around them whether it's about politics, entertainment, sports, and everything else. Nowadays, people would often rely on social media to get their information because platforms like Facebook and Twitter are the most accessible sites. 

According to an article by the News Media Alliance, a poll conducted by the Morning Consult for the Alliance found out that 41% of people turn to their social media for the news. However, the rise of misinformation or fake news in the past years around the world has become an unfortunate part of the media landscape, spread wildly across mobile phones and computer screens. And because fake news has its home in the online platforms, it is easier to spread it and have many people misinformed. 

The poll also showed that 58% of people in social media have encountered fake news at least once when they go online. This can be extremely dangerous in the long run because it will only manipulate people and persuade them to believe and accept the wrong information. Democratic countries are also at risk because it causes a lot of problems for the media and people. Even ordinary netizens are alarmed by the existence of fake news. In fact, the same poll showed that 35% of the respondents were very concerned about it. 

A Deeper Look at Fake News

A report titled "Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election" conducted by Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow from Stanford University defined fake news as “news articles that are intentionally and verifiably false, and could mislead readers.” Most of the time, they are created for these specific reasons: push a political agenda, influence people's views, or cause confusion.

According to an article by the Web Wise, Martina Chapman, a media literacy expert, stated that there are three elements of fake news: misinformation, mistrust, and manipulation. The internet in general and social media, in particular, have come up with a new way to publish and share information with very little regulation or editorial standards. This is far from the traditionally trusted sources, media outlets, and journalists that we get news from. Unlike social media, they are required to follow strict codes of practice. 

Unfortunately, the rise of fake news makes it difficult for a lot of people to tell whether stories are true or not. Some of the factors that have also contributed to an increase of hoax stories are the general lack of understanding about how the internet works and information overload. A recent study conducted by researchers from New York University and Princeton University showed that people over 65 years of age are the most likely to share fake news. 

58% of people in social media have encountered fake news at least once when they go online / Photo by Getty Images

 

According to an article by the Intelligence, the study, which was published in Science Advances, had worked with a group of 3,500 people before and after the 2016 election. The findings of the research showed that 8.5% of users shared fake news, with many of them belonging to the elderly demographic. Additionally, it was discovered that liberals are more likely to share fake news. About 14% of Republicans shared links to fake news sites while 4% are Democrats. 

Fake news not only serves as a means to spread misinformation but also to make a profitable business. When a certain hoax story goes viral, it can generate large sums of advertising. The more attention or reach a story gets, the more money online publishers make through advertising revenue.

 

Impact of Fake News

The impact of fake news goes beyond just manipulating people, it can also have an effect on a person's behavior. According to an article by the Mind Tools, people who believe in fake news will eventually no longer need facts to back up their arguments. They would stop listening to reports or news, mistrust information, and disengage entirely. 

Another recent study by the researchers from Harvard, Buffalo State, and Northeastern universities discovered that the spread of misinformation was concentrated. They defined fake news on a publisher-wide level and found out that journalists, fact-checkers, and academics have created a list of websites that mostly publish false information. They labeled those websites "black," while the flawed editorial process was labeled “red. "Orange" was the label given to those websites that aren't certain. All in all, they found 171 black fake news sources, 65 orange, and 64 red in the data. 

Fake news can indeed create divisions in a political climate, dismiss others' ideas, spread rumors, and exaggerate the truth. They can also cause mistrust of the government and the legitimate news sources.

There are several ways to resist fake news and not believe in it. According to an article by the Phys Org, a recent study suggested that one must start thinking like a scientist. This means adopting a questioning attitude that is motivated by curiosity. For instance, start questioning what type of content is the news story; where is it published since the source of information is crucial in finding out if the news is legitimate or not; and who will benefit from it.

 

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