Last week, I posted some information about a “fake news” study that wanted boomer participants. Because of my training as a researcher and debate coach, I felt as though I was fairly good at detecting phony stories. However, I do know that I can always learn more. In the past few days, I have become increasingly more aware of the range of questionable news that is really saturating social media.
What is Fake News and How Much is Reposted?Cambridge online dictionary defines “fake” news as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media to influence political views or as a joke. A Business Insider article reports that individuals from the boomer generation are more likely to repost “fake” news than younger generations. However, while boomers are more likely to repost fake news, less than 9 percent of Americans shared fake news links during the 2016 political campaign. Findings from New York University’s Social Media and Political Participation Lab and Princeton University found that while resharing posts were relatively rare, there were differences as to how much reposting of fake news occurred based on political affiliation during 2016.
How Can We Detect Fake News?Fortunately, there are some fairly reliable ways to inoculate ourselves against fake news. In 2017, AARP offered some practical suggestions for detecting fake news. Some of the suggestions included source reliability, checking other news outlets for the same information, examine site quality, and check URLs for legitimacy. Source credibility: I use my tablet to read the news each morning. I use two APPS that curate my news for me –360 and Smart News. Some of the news I see comes from sources that have high journalism standards like the Associated Press and the New York Times, and NPR. Some of the other sources I have learned to recognize as politically biased based on the inflammatory language and skewing of perspectives used in the articles; these sources tend to use more opinion articles than ones that can be verified by facts. Widely reported: When I see a news article that looks like it might be legitimate, I do pay attention to see if other sources that are known to be credible are also reporting the same information. Sometimes I get in a hurry and just look at headlines – that can also be a problem. Suspicious sites: If I see words that are misspelled, a lot of advertisements, or other cues that the information is coming from a less reputable source, I do question it. Sometimes I zip through the news quickly and think I am reading an article from a reputable source because the URL includes a familiar address. What I might not notice is that extra characters might have been added to a familiar URL to trick me into reading it. The example used in the AARP article was for abcnews.com.co. I’ve fallen for this before. It is surprising how much “news” is really nothing more than an attempt to manipulate our views. I suspect the creators of fake news will continue to increase their sophistication over time. We know that videos have been edited to fool us into believing something that is not true. That is really sad. What is even sadder is when such news gets reposted.