Fake News in the Social Media Era

So we all think we know what fake news is, but do we? Do we really know how prevalent it is? How much of what you think is real news, is actually FAKE NEWS? Where does it come from?

In an age where there is an endless amount of information that is just a click away, how do you process all of it? How do you figure out if what you’re taking in, is in a way authentic or factual? How do you separate news from propaganda or spin? Since 2016, the facts took hit after hit, exposed by the election. Like supporting your favorite sports team, any headline that fits a certain viewpoint can become the bigger viewpoint, and the bigger the scandal, the more that news goes viral. But does that make it real? How can we tell?

Well, social media has changed the landscape of life as we know it, and the way information is spread.

I would go as far as saying that the “Newsfeed” has become one of the most influential sources of information in the history of civilization. Think about the advancement of information and technology that has brought us to this point. Think about the news press  process,compared to how quickly information is shared now.

Fake news is defined as a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news dates back to the 1st century campaign of misinformation against Mark Antony, a political leader. It is written and published with the intent to mislead, for either financial or political gains, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.

Needless to say, the repercussions of fake news and journalism can be tremendous. Cue President Trump and his antics; in specific, his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate. Around the world, most people find this “extremely disappointing”, but he’s able to get away with it, possibly because the public is not aware that all of the major scientific institutions agree that climate change is real and is caused by humans. In fact, Trump tweeted that were completely made up, and was able to claim them as facts. But as people rally behind him and his agenda, and with his ability to spin the facts, combined with his power, does this become truth?

Remember that whole deal with the Russians influencing the election through hacking and spreading fake news? Well, did you know, if you want an 800-word fake news article written by Chinese content marketer Xiezuobang, it’s only $30. How about having the Russian firm SMOService make a video appear on YouTube’s main page for two minutes? $621, please. What about getting the English-language firm, “Quick Follow Now” to have 2,500 Twitter followers all re-tweet a link for you? A mere $25.

Young kids in Macedonia writing fake news stories during the last election, were able to make $7,000 a week with only three tools: a fake news site, a Google ad-sense account and a Facebook page. They wrote a story called “Thousands of Hillary Votes Found in Ohio Warehouse”, four days before the election. They put it out, posted a link from their Facebook page, and unleashed a bot army to push it up Trending Topics and the Google search engine, all while earning cash from the ads Google would place on their fake news site. These guys basically hacked Google to earn cash and they’re good at what they do. Not only do they influence what we see on a daily basis, but they are responsible for giving us the news we live our lives with.

The jarring truth is that “fake news” is practically everywhere. There are very few media outlets that aren’t biased in a certain way. The big question is, how do we responsibly take in all of the information that we come across with, on a daily basis? One answer is to be more open in your approach to information and with people with all kinds of viewpoints. It’s important to have a discussion and conversation with real people about why and what they feel. Only then can we get closer to our own truth.

Till then, users beware, fake news is everywhere.

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