Web 2.0. The real reason fake news exists?

What is fake news?

Fake news has recently launched into public debate, partly due to alleged Russian intervention in foreign political processes (Peters, 2017). Oxford Dictionaries define this phenomenon as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. Fake news articles deliberately intend to mislead readers to promote an agenda or idea.

You might find an article like this on Facebook – would you share this with friends on UOSM2008?

Figure 1: A fake article in a Facebook feed appears just like a real article. Credit: https://blog.soton.ac.uk/youreit/wearingwhite-gallery/ and photoshoped by myself.

Web 2.0

88% young adults over the age of 18 now get their news from Facebook and it’s concerning how young people decided whether a news story was fake or not (Shellenbarger, 2016). Xavier Voigt-Hill, Ryan Dodd and myself investigated fake news and social media last year.

 

 

It’s been commented that “fake news is a consequence of the democratization of media that we heralded with web 2.0” (Prosser, 2016). I agree –  capabilities created by Web 2.0 give free speech to everyone and everything worldwide, those with good intentions, and bad.

 

But what can I do?

  1. Make use of fact-checking tools available to you.
  2. Check an article (see below) before sharing it.

1)

Google has created a schema that allows publishers to contest claims made on other websites. For the made-up article above, you could see this in your Google search results:

Figure 3: Properly implemented Google FactCheck schema appears in search results. Credit: Google, mockuphone.com and adapted by myself.

Facebook have also rolled out a fact-checking service that you can use, however, its rare to see a ‘disputed tag’ actually appear on reported content, reports Levin (2017), while also casting doubt on Facebook’s eagerness to stop the spread of fake news.

2)

There are many things you can do to check the authenticity of information you find online also. Although 10 years old, Metzger’s (2007) compilation of “suggested factors” I found the most thorough (p.2082).

Figure 4: Checklist for checking information online, graphic created by me and adapted from Table 2 in Metzger (2007). Created using Canva.com

Pro tip: Don’t just read the headline, click on the article to read on and follow the checklist above 🙌.

 

(Word Count: 312 excluding in-text citations)

References

 

 

 

 

 

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