Fake news. We’ve all heard about it a million times now, our nation’s leader has made it a public phenomenon, and what better time to talk about it than in the midst of COVID-19.
As we stay quarantined during this time of uncertainty, many of us are glued to our phones and laptops while working from home. I for one cannot go two hours online without being completely bombarded with constant #coronavirus updates. Struggling with wanting to stay informed versus staying sane, this is a great lesson on how to avoid fake news stories.
Social media makes it so easy to quickly spread false information to many people. Just a simple share to your feed allows your followers to view content that may have never crossed their page. Unfortunately, not all news outlets can be trustworthy, even if they look legitimate.
Journalist Craig Silverman mentioned in the NPR FRESH AIR transcript that right before the 2016 election, fake news spiked up on Facebook with the most popular stories being pro-Trump and anti-Clinton.
After some website tracking and research, it was uncovered that out of these fake news sites, 140 of them, originated out of a tiny town in Macedonia. Run by 20-something-year-olds who signed up for Google’s ad network, AdSense, these false American politics websites used platforms such as Facebook to gain traction to their advertisement-soaked websites in order to make a buck.
When this came to light, people were upset that a company like Facebook would allow a corrupted website to make a profit by way of their company. In order to stop the spread of fake news on Facebook, they are no longer allowing unauthorized news outlet websites to access Facebook’s advertising tools.
Know your news
Factcheck.org gives some great ideas on how to double-check that you are reading something legitimate. They are shown below in this graphic:
Of course, we all know that .gov, .org, and .edu sites can be very trustworthy, but this is 2020. We need to be even more careful, as fake news sites have gotten sneakier with the times. Though these websites are more likely to have trustworthy information that is real and approved, go one step deeper and check the About or Contact Us pages. If something seems unprofessional or mentions “fantasy news,” click away.
Another helpful tip from the Freedom Forum Institute is to check the article or story for reputable quotes. If it lacks quotes, has quotes that are oddly written or sound made-up, they probably are!
With the Coronavirus in full-swing in the U.S. and most of the public practicing social distancing, many people are going on their phones for hours at a time to check social networks and the news. Perhaps this is a good time for us to power off for a little while and spend some time with family and friends. Take a walk outdoors and stop refreshing Twitter to follow the latest on #COVID-19. It’ll be there when you get back.