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Fake news

Fake news seems to be the new buzz word and today everyone seems to know what it means. In this article we will look more closely at why it is such a relevant topic, and explore the dangers of believing everything we read online. We will also look at where to find reliable sources, and how the internet is fooling us into believing that we get a nuanced view on important topics.

Fake news skrevet på et tastatur. Foto.

“Fake news” has acquired a certain legitimacy after being named word of the year (2017) by Collins, following what the dictionary called its “ubiquitous presence” over the last 12 months. The Guardian.

The definition of Fake news according to the Collins dictionary is: false, often sensational, information disseminated under the pretense of news reporting.

Collins Dictionary’s lexicographers, who monitor the 4.5bn-word Collins corpus, said that usage of the term had increased by 365% since 2016. When you hear the phrase Fake News what are your first thoughts? The phrase, often capitalized, is frequently a feature of Donald Trump’s rhetoric; and is probably why the phrase is so well known. In other words, the term has become synonymous with Trump who has used the phrase repeatedly to criticize the media, particularly during his now infamous Twitter rants, and what he perceives to be inaccurate reporting. CNBC

Twittermelding fra Donald Trump.

What is Fake news?

How do you find your information? How do you ‘hear’ about things? How can you know what events really happened? How do you know what sources to trust and what sources to discard? In this article, we will explore the dangers of believing everything we read online, we will look at where to find reliable sources, and how the internet is fooling us into believing that we get a nuanced view on important topics.

Fake news travels fast

It is common to believe today that robots are spreading fake news. Like in the presidential campaign between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. This is not true. According to studies humans, rather than robots, are the ones that rally spread fake news. Another interesting fact is that fake news spreads much more quickly than real news. And the most terrifying fact is that it reaches more people than real news. Why? The study found that false news was more original than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share extraordinary information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust.” BBC

Their findings, published in the journal Science , included:

  • False news stories were 70% more likely to be re-tweeted than true stories
  • It took true stories around six times longer to reach 1,500 people
  • True stories were rarely shared beyond 1,000 people, but the most popular false news could reach up to 100,000

When discussing fake news, we also need to look at the term Media literacy. Media literacy allows people to access, critically evaluate, and create media. It is important to know that even if fake news is used to spread lies and gossip, the distinction between false news and truth is seldom black and white. It is important for you to be able to spot the nuances in what you read and realize that there might be more than two sides to the story. A question we might ask ourselves when we check facts and distinguish truths from falsehoods is; Why do people from different worldviews interpret the same piece of information differently?” Using social media to connect with people in different parts of the world is one way to get a broader perspective.

Critical thinking; can you rely on your sources?
A list on how to fight misinformation:

  1. Fact check every statement and headline, read this article by BBC
  2. Report inaccuracies and misinformation on social media
  3. Check browser extensions for unreliable sources, ask yourself; have I heard of this publisher before? Is this the source I think it is?
  4. Can I point to where this happened on a map?
  5. Has this been reported anywhere else?
  6. Is there more than one piece of evidence for this claim?
  7. Refer to a list of fake news outlets ( LINK)

How can you fight misinformation?

If you read a story that you find offensive and believe is untrue in Facebook, you can report it. Simply click on report post and then explain why. See illustration.

Facebook report

The filter bubbles

When you Google be sure to check different sources and not rely only on the first three results you see. One place you could use to find different sources is Google News. To most people the internet is a connection to the world. We need it to introduce us to new ideas. It should be a great source for democracy in our society. But this is not always the case. There is a shift in how information is flowing on the web. As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. In other words, Google is providing us with more of the information that Google thinks we want. So even if we are careful to avoid fake news, we are only getting the news we like. That is why it is so important to search for information from different sources. When searching for information about the Us and the Russians for instance, why not use the search word site:ru to find out what they are writing about the topic in Russia.

Fake news is it new?

Fake news might be the word of the year but fooling people into believing something false is nothing new! Just look at this newspaper article from 1940. Why do you think people profit from spreading fake news? What can be the reason to write this article?

Fake news article on dinosaurs.

Today it is easier to spread fake news than it has ever been, and it is our responsibility to prevent this from happening. Anytime you read something unbelievable, you should ask yourself this question; “If it seems unbelievable and shocking to you, might it be because it is actually false?” Do you really want to be the person who spreads this news to your friends? If a future employer Googles you, what will they find? If a story is too “good” to be true, it might just be false. The most incriminating facts usually have an agenda. Like in the case of the Parkland shootings in Florida in 2018. Many members of the NRA were afraid of losing their right to bear arms and they spread news that the students who protested were actors and that Emma Gonzales tore up the constitution. It is easy to see how people could be upset when they see her do that in a picture. We tend to believe pictures more than words. Still, we owe it to ourselves to always check our sources when we look for information. We can all be responsible in stopping the spreading of Fake News!

Discussion topics

  1. This picture from Fukushima, Japan, shows us the effect of The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma. Explain how you can be certain that this is true?
  2. Sometimes fake news can backfire. Read this article from the Parkland shooting and explain how the students are able to make the lies to their advantage.
  3. Dogs can now find a new place to live at dog island. Discuss why you think this is a good idea and if this is something you would suggest to you friends who have dogs?
  4. Would you ever consider spreading fake news if you thought it was of your best interest? Visit this website and produce your own fake news. What topic would you choose? What are your chances of success?
  5. What does this picture say about how we trust the news today? Source: The New York Times


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