Author: Jimmy Reimer
Our world is shrinking. With advances in communication technology, such as social media and online outlets, there is no shortage of information from around the globe on every imaginable topic.
The challenge presented by the immense volume of articles, blogs and the occasional Twitter rant is what to believe?
In a nation becoming increasingly divided on a variety of issues, the temptation of clicking on an article that aligns with an individual’s opinions is often too strong to ignore.
However, when these opinionated articles make their way into the mainstream without proper sources or credible fact checks, the question of validity arises. It may not seem like an issue of great importance, but we no longer live in an age of slow, deliberate and credible arguments. These have been replaced by impulsive responses through social media outlets.
In the past, fake news has been defined as propaganda.
When the word “propaganda” comes to mind, we think of over-exaggerated stories in order to procure a reaction from the public, often regarding a political issue such as war or a political ideology.
The false information of today is very similar to that of the past; however, today it seems to be much more difficult to separate the real from the fake because of social media. Social media, unlike the print news of the past, is not regulated because of the simple ability to post whatever you want. People are more inclined to believe fake news on social media because society is historically trusting of the media.
This creates the problem of fake news in the mainstream where it can be retweeted, reposted and treated as fact with very little critical analysis. This misinformation creates an unstable atmosphere that is dismissive of all facts because some have been proven to be misleading.
Mistrust of facts mean that individuals become reliant upon their own opinions and can become less open minded as well. We have already begun to see the effects of this phenomenon in the increasingly radicalized political landscape of the last election.
Fake news can only be combated with a critical analysis of every piece of “news” you read.
Another good strategy is to be conscious of the material which you post on social media. While it may not seem like it has much of an impact if only one percent of Twitter’s users retweet or republish non-factual articles, that is approximately 10 million articles in circulation. These articles then have the ability to reach hundreds of millions of users and even break in to other social media outlets like Facebook.
The war against fake news will only be won by those who possess a healthy degree of skepticism that encourages the reader to dig deeper to find the truth.
photo credit to Huffington Post