Fake news is news to someone right?

Recently I wrote a paper on fake news and how it is easily distributed throughout the media. I believe it is an issue that will never go away and the only way to tame it is to put the responsibility solely on to the person who is consuming the news. Check your facts people, it makes all the difference. As a dedication to the quality and the content of Common Chaos, we here pledge to make sure we do our best when having conversations and discussions regarding topics and subjects that matter. While we figure out how the fuck we're going to do that, enjoy yourself the report. Feel free to leave us some comments and let us know what you think on the subject.

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The Real Fake News. By Bryan Kern

One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2016 Presidential election, was fake news. Fake news is the term used to describe modern-day propaganda. It is news that is meant to manipulate or misinform it's audience. It is presented as being factually accurate when in reality often lacks any basis or truth (Merriam-Webster 2016). The reason fake news is so hard to identify and the reason it's becoming a serious issue is how instantaneous our connection to information is. Within seconds we can access an unlimited selection of "news sources" find information on a topic and share it amongst our friends. With it being that easy, fact-checking and validation has become less of a priority. To reduce the spread of fake news and to minimize its influence, we must continue to educate ourselves individually and encourage the same behavior within our society. 

Fake news has become a major issue recently with it being a hot topic during the 2016 Presidential Election. Some prime examples may be Pizzagate or the "busloads" of protesters during particular presidential rallies, that most media outlets reported. (Argawal, 2017) Main Stream Media (MSM) outlets have long been peoples primary source of news and information. During election time the airwaves were filled with party reports and the latest news about the candidates and the events that took place. With forms of fake news such as yellow journalism and propaganda being around for centuries, it seemed like only a matter of time before false reports started flooding the newsrooms. (Agrawal, 2017). What happened though, was "fake news" actually became real news with multiple MSM outlets including CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC all being involved in the reporting of fake news as real news during the election.

Reporting false stories isn't the only issue MSM has. Recently It's become more acceptable to acknowledge that most MSM outlets have a bias to a particular affiliation or speak to a certain social and moral narrative. However, the news they report is meant to be factual and honest (Journalism Code of Ethics). Misleading the public intentionally would lead people to lose trust and the outlets themselves to lose credibility. With an immediate connection to information, many Americans reached out to other sources for their news and information turning to the internet, social media in particular.

The populations use of the internet to gain information was higher this election than any election in the past (Gottfried & Shearer, 2016). Results from a study conducted by the Pews research group in 2016 revealed that 62% of Adults in the United States got their news from social media platforms (Gottfried & Shearer, 2016). That 62% was subject to hundreds of thousands of fake news stories, 24% of which was shared throughout the social media world with Facebook leading the way (Silverman, 2016 & Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017). Often, the news that was being circulated was from outlets with extreme political bias, like Breitbart and The Washington Post or from outlets that reported fake news purposefully like abc.com.co or nbc.com.co. These sites are designed to gather clicks for the sake of revenue and often mimic real news sites. Although it may seem malicious to report fake news, these sites are normally made to look fake and many times state they are satire. However, some will mimic logos and icons to gain attention to seem legitimate.

Hunt Allcott a Professor from New York University and Matthew Gentzkow Professor from Stanford recently submitted Social Media and Fake News in The 2016 Election in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. In the study, they found that one of the biggest factors of fake news' circulation during the election was the number of stories reported and shared through Facebook. Of all the news that was shared 42% was from false news sites. Secondly, they discovered the internet itself accounted for almost 30% of all election-related news. Coming in a close second to TV at 43%. (Allcott & Gentzkow). These statistics cause alarm seeing as how influential the internet has become particularly with social media and its roles within social and political groups. With fake news being in circulation and a massive amount of sources to obtain it from placing blame on a particular source is hard. Furthermore, it's easy to see that it's not one but several things that contribute to the spreading of fake news. 

Many Believe fake news is more of a social issue than just an attempt to mislead people. The Allcott & Gentzkow report, as well as one published by Nathaniel Persily for Johns Hopkins University, pointed out that the fake news issue relies on the results of a social and cultural change in the United States. With the sharing of media being so seamless and easy, it is possible that a hidden bias or social norm has developed in the way news is shared. The content is appealing, but the facts of the material may not be adequately researched or studied before the reader decides they want to share it (Persily, 2017). With the possibility of anything being considered newsworthy and the recent influx in social issues, it almost seems inevitable that people will stop validating every piece information they're being fed, and instead share articles and headlines amongst social circles blindly. This potential fact then puts the fake news in this ether of constant communication. This consistent stream then leads to articles being shared upwards of 800,000 times (Silverman, 2016).

It's clear that the perception of information may need to experience a shift or a change in dynamic. This shift is one that is believed to already be underway, according to Professor Peter V. Paul, of Gallaudet University calls the current generation, the "knowledge generation." He sees this generation that is emerging from this battle of real and fake news and thinks it is going to create a culture that sees an increase in trust issues. His article in the American Annals of the Deaf, which published earlier this year shares the results of a study he did which tracked how new information and validation of said information was received by deaf students. It showed the students relied heavily on what they knew and what they trusted when being dealt with facts, regardless if the facts themselves were indeed accurate. When it comes to social media, the casual user will surround themselves with people they know and trust and things They're familiar with, which could potentially lead to people relying on their trust of individuals instead of the facts themselves. It could also cause people to follow a particular narrative or idea without truly knowing and understanding what is being presented to them (Paul, 2017 p.4). It is at this point people must ask themselves if they're responsible when sharing the news they consider important. Are individuals researching and learning about the news they receive? Or are they continuing in the spread of false information under the assumption it's true? The bigger question may be, who is holding themselves accountable when it comes to stopping and preventing fake news?

The Constitutional Rights Foundation is looking to prevent the spreading of fake news by providing tools and information regarding better source studying. They look to highlight how individuals observe the news and in turn educate people on how to properly research and share information. In a document released earlier this year, the CRF outlined a list of behaviors known as S.M.A.R.T. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Source, Motive, Authority, Review, Two source test. The document is meant to teach people the most efficient way to determine whether a source is likely to be honest and reliable. While covering the legalities surrounding fake news, it promotes and encourages an honest and proactive approach to information sharing in the digital age.

 Companies like Snopes and PolitiFact are leading the fight against the way information is shared and looking to show the significance of having the facts right (Huddleston, 2017 & Awgaral, 2017). It is important to realize this issue is one that starts and stops at the individual level. We as a culture and society should take action when it comes to how we share our information. It is an ethical responsibility of ours to ensure we seek to educate ourselves and other people so we can progress further, both individually and together. For society to do that, it must make sure it's answering the questions about the issues and events that matter most to us. 

Encouraging the free use and sharing of information is just as important. There is a current issue involving information and access to information that is being talked about amongst the community involved in net neutrality. With the access to information being primarily free and accessible to anyone, the public must use it responsibly. The public must make sure we are seeking truth and facts before we develop our own opinions and align ourselves with certain values.  

The filtering of news sources themselves may not be a reliable way to catch or halt fake news. (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017) With it being clear that media sources interpret the news differently, relying on one or two sources could force a certain narrative and hinder the possibility of gaining an honest perspective, rather than developing a real opinion on an event or an article. Furthermore, fake news fills the public's feeds often hidden in the stream of real news just waiting to be engaged. 

Instead of taking headlines at face value and sharing them amongst social groups and friends lists; individuals should seek out to truly understand the information they are receiving. They must brave the other side so to speak and look at both ends of the spectrum, allowing themselves to see the whole picture. This ensures They are getting as much information as possible in order to have a clear understanding of what they're learning. One must challenge themselves to seek facts and evidence and validate the work that went in and the results it produces so they can incorporate it into their own lives. They must trust the information they are obtaining, if they begin to question it, then they can continue to seek answers. Individuals should also encourage those around them to do the the same. As a society, we should ask tough questions to seek a true knowledge of what we do not know and then share what we find.

The existence of fake news lies heavily on the shoulders of the media. Both the mainstream and social types alike. The reason for it's existence at this point is moot. However, it's influence and overall impact can be tamed and controlled. By developing a culture that encourages education and accountability, we can combat this issue and get back to covering news that matters and makes a difference.


Bryan Kern1 Comment