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Monday, March 27, 2017
MEDIA MONDAY / WHY FAKE NEWS?
We Wish This Was Fake News
GUEST BLOG / By Mark
Grabowski, first published as an opinion article in the Times of San Diego, December 16, 2016.
Did you hear that
President Obama signed an executive order banning fake news sites? Or that
Donald Trump claims the Earth is flat? Or that Russians discovered a vaccine to
of the above were recent popular fake news stories — a growing epidemic online,
which Facebook and Google are now vowing to help stymie.
Grabowski is a lawyer and teaches communications law at National University in
news is not a new problem. In fact, historians believe it may have induced the
Spanish-American War of 1898. But technology is making fake news common and
tricky to decipher.
such stories are entirely made up, they’re often related to topics trending in
the real news. These lies, hoaxes and rumors are typically published on
websites that look journalistic and professional. The notorious fake news site
abcnews.com.co, for instance, utilizes a URL and logo nearly identical to the
actual website for ABC News, a respected TV news outlet. Additionally, fake
news often appears in online posts, videos, memes and discussion forums.
fake news outperforms real news in search engine results and social media
shares. Even prominent journalists and government officials have been fooled.
And fake news can have serious consequences, as impetuous consumers of news
have engaged in illegal and violent behavior as a result of believing a canard.
how can you tell if a story is legit? Here are some tips:
who produced it. Most real news outlets have websites with an “About” section
that provides a lot of information, such as the company that runs it, staff
members, and its mission statement. If the language used seems odd, be
skeptical. For example, abcnews.com.co’s about section mentions “Fappy The
Anti-Masturbation Dolphin.” You should also be able to find out more
information about the news outlet in places other than that site. Wikipedia,
for example, has entries for most media outlets and explicitly states which are
fake news sites.
the sources cited. Does the story cite and quote credible sources — a person
with a name and a title, such as “Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager?”
If not, or if they use anonymous or vague sources, such as “sources said,”
“according to reports,” “friends say,” be suspicious.
fact-checking sites. Fake news stories that go viral are often exposed by such
websites as Snopes.com, TruthOrFiction.com and FactCheck.org. Curated lists of
fake news sites also exist, although they’re never comprehensive and are
sometimes skewed by the creator’s preferences.
addition to fake news, there are other types of dubious news:
Some fake news is created to entertain rather than mislead, but not all news
consumers can tell the difference. TV shows, such as Last Week Tonight with
John Oliver, comment on real-world news events using parody and exaggeration.
Newspapers, such as The Onion, publish wholly fictionalized news stories. There
are also dozens of satirical websites, such as The Daily Currant.
Advertisements about products and services may be disguised to look and sound
like a news story. They’re frequently placed on social media sites as
“promoted” or “sponsored” content. They can also appear in newspapers,
magazines and on TV.
news: Media that’s government-owned or restricted from publishing what they
want should be viewed skeptically. Few countries offer the same press freedoms
as the United States. In China, for example, many popular media outlets are
government-run and censorship is common.
news: While no media outlet is completely objective, some don’t even try to be.
For example, Fox News and Breitbart tailor their news to right-leaning
audiences while Huffington Post and MSNBC have a noticeable liberal bias.
journalism: Trusted news outlets sometimes spread false information. Sources
may lie to reporters. Journalists can fall victim to pranks or hackers.
Laziness and deadline pressures can cause mistakes. Unethical scribes have
exaggerated or concocted news on many occasions. The Washington Post once won a
Pulitzer Prize for a story that was later exposed as fabricated.
be better informed, here’s some final advice:
getting news from social media. Most social media feeds are echo chambers,
offering limited perspectives on a narrow range of information. Facebook is
useful for many things, but it’s not a news outlet. Its goal is to keep you
clicking, and it tweaks your newsfeed so you only see content you like.
Similarly, Twitter’s feed only shows content posted by people you choose to
rely on one media outlet. Although commonly grouped together as “the media,”
new sources are not monolithic. Each news outlet has its own approach to
reporting on what’s happening in the world. So, diversify your news consumption
by seeking out multiple news sources and reading a variety of perspectives on
good journalism. Ultimately consumers will be the gatekeepers by deciding which
stories get clicks and shares and which stories don’t get attention. Be part of
the solution, not the problem. Don’t spread false information. But do share