Writing a post or two on fake news was not on my schedule of topics for this blog. Fake news received significant coverage during the 2016 national presidential election. Post-election, my initials thoughts were, “There can’t be a stone that was not unturned on this topic.” Regrettably, that is not the case, and the term has been and continues to be used frequently by others including the news media and most notably by our sitting president, Donald J. Trump.
Most individuals who are conscious of the world around them have heard the term, fake news, and have some familiarity with the media and other sources that generate information and data. Some organizations, like Google and FaceBook, are taking actions to reduce fake news that may find its way on to their platforms. How to Spot Fake News courses are popping up in high school and colleges, and members of industry and academia are partnering to recognize and root-out this social phenomena.
So exactly what is fake news? I stumbled upon a very good definition from the Dr. Oz Show:
Fake news is click-bait internet stories that capitalize on a total fabrication, half-truth or a conspiracy theory – all designed to make you click to a different site or even better, sharing it with your own network of social media friends.
Why do people create fake news? Their number one goal is to make money off of adds you see on the side of the page. Some of these are real ads – anything from shoes to smoothies – based on your personal browsing history. Legitimate advertisers may have no idea that their product is sold on a fake news site because they distribute them to third party. Even worse are scam ads that promise a miracle anti-aging cure, or this one for a supplement. Gee he looks familiar! That’s right, these are fake ads that steal your image without your permission to steal your money.
Fake news article draw you in with irresistibly outrageous headlines. The problem is they are tricky to spot. Check out this site. It looks like a real news site. It even says “America’s number one independent news source” but the url address bar looks sketchy. The information is made up. And when you google “National Report” the first thing that comes up on Wikipedia says it is a fake news site.
The news may be fake, but the money these digital opportunists make off of tricking you is very real. [Ref 1]
As provided in the definition above, those who choose to dabble in fake news aren’t just political pundits or those offering their partisan views. Those pandering fake news have a goal in mind, and often their desired objective is to influence your and my thoughts and actions.
Fake news is not new and has been around for a long time under other names like quackery, knock-offs, deception, misrepresentation of data and facts, etc. However, it just seems like there’s more of it these days. According to Business Insider, “The rise of misleading news has become a larger issue since the U.S. election. Hundreds of misleading websites publish fake stories that can surface on social media and become popular.” [Ref 2] So popular that dispelling these stories as false is almost next to impossible for those who want or need to believe them.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a news interview with Good Morning Britain [Ref 2] “The spread of fake news online is one of today’s chief problems. we have to give the consumer tools to help with this and we’ve got to filter out part of it before it ever gets there without losing the great openness of the internet.”
One thing that is apparent in this new era of fake news is that each of us will have to become our own best friend when it comes to fact checking.
- Dr. Oz reveals truth about fake news, http://www.doctoroz.com/video/dr-oz-reveals-truth-about-fake-news#cmpid=em02232017
- Apple CEO Tim Cook: Fake news ‘is one of today’s chief problems’, by James Cook for the Business Insider, February 10, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-ceo-tim-cook-fake-news-todays-chief-problems-consumer-tools-london-2017-2?utm_content=bufferd8ee0&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer-ti