Misinformation Is Now Considered A Global Threat
“Fake news!” is not just a Trumpian catchphrase or an accusation fired between two debating political opponents on social media. Fake news, misinformation, fraudulent experts, doctored photos and videos are now considered by several international agencies invested in democracy, security and health to be one of the biggest threats facing the over 4.7 Billion people who are currently using the internet worldwide.
It is a particular threat for developing countries where literacy rates, cyber-literacy, education in critical thinking and unquestioned trust in “authority figures” are factors. The Council on Foreign Relations calls online misinformation a “Threat to Democracy in the Developing World”. Now as the world tries to get a pandemic under control, false information on vaccines, remedies and the virus itself is proving to be one of the biggest hindrances. The unadorned truth is; false information online has literally ruined lives, family relationships, reputations and in extreme cases helped tyrants rise to power and contributed to corruption.
This Marketing Mojo article is an effort to curbing the proliferation of fake stories online.
How Do I Protect Myself From False Information Online?
It can be hard to tell the truth from fiction in cyberspace. False profiles and pages which resemble true pages can easily spread fake news. Bots can be employed to like and share their posts among other people’s news feeds. All this is done for various reasons like boosting traffic for websites, increasing likes on posts to promote products ,etc.
Here are some ways you can safeguard yourself from false information online:
You can identify fake news by looking at the following factors: source, date of publication/posting, website domain name, headlines and images (or lack thereof), hyperlinks and references to other sources.
Verify sources: It is important that you verify the source of the story before you share it on your social media account or share it with your friends and family. If you cannot verify where the story originated from, do not post it on your social media profiles or share it with other people online who may not be able to discern what's real or not.
Do research: You should also do research on a topic before sharing.
How to Identify Fake News on Social Media Platforms
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been the social media platforms of choice for people around the world. They offer an audience of billions and allow them to share information with ease. But this accessibility has also made social media a breeding ground for propaganda, fake news, and misinformation campaigns.
Twitter is one of the most used social media platforms in the world. It offers a huge network of users and provides a platform for content creators to share their thoughts and ideas with others. Users can share their own content or retweet others’ content from other sites on Twitter.
With the rise of Twitter usage, it is not surprising that fake news has been on the rise as well.
Fake news is often created with the intention to mislead readers or influence their thoughts on a particular topic or person in order to promote political, social or professional agendas.
Real News Or Fake News Litmus Test
It is crucial for news consumers to be able to distinguish between fake news and real news.
Fake News Detection
The first step in identifying fake news is to determine if there are any other articles on the same topic that provide a different point of view. If there are articles that provide different perspectives, then it is probably not fake. If the article's perspective matches that of another article then it may be suspect. The two articles should be compared for content inconsistencies, factual errors, or other indications that they were written by different authors. Sometimes the inconsistency will only come up when comparing a headline with a story's content or when comparing an article's text with related images or captions. It will also help to compare the article with information from other sources such as government sources or media outlets known for accuracy and fairness.
Conclusion: Rethinking Ourselves - Preventing the Spread of Influenced Opinion
The spread of misinformation is not new. It has been happening for centuries. True information was always filtered, controlled, or censored by the ruling elite. However, with the advent of the Internet and social media it became much easier for misinformation to spread faster than ever before.
As it was before the internet, so it is now that the people most susceptible to deception are those who are most eager for confirmation bias, the uncritical thinkers, the “faith and feelings over facts” crowd. The more passionate you are about needing to believe in a particular ideology, support a certain viewpoint, bolster faith in a premise at all costs, the more vulnerable you are to being misled.
The less zealous, more dispassionate truthseekers, skeptics, independent thinkers are less susceptible. Question everything! Keep an open and reflexive mind that is willing to change opinions. Most of all, employ the tips in this article as your new browsing behavior.