Don’t fall for fake news

Lauren Oligino

“Trump’s grandfather was a pimp and tax evader; his father a member of KKK.” “Pelosi diverts $2.4 billion from social security to cover impeachment costs.” “Ocasio-Cortez Proposes Nationwide Motorcycle Ban.”

According to businessinsider.com, these were the most popular fake news stories on Facebook in 2019. Each one has acquired thousands of shares along with hundreds of likes and comments by people who believe these articles are real.

Photo by Canva.com
Infographic by Lauren Oligino& Zach Rever; statistics from Pew
Research Center, 2019

Fake news, a term made popular by President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, refers to news that is inaccurate but is presented as being factually true.

While fake news can be applied to any aspect of the media, it is most commonly associated with politics. A 2019 Pew Research Center study found that 57 percent of U.S. adults blame politicians and their staff members for fake news rather than journalists (36 percent). However, 53 percent of Americans believe it is the job of the news media to reduce fake news.

A majority of fake news infiltrating today’s society resides on social media. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, recently announced that it will put a “False Information” label on any post that is found to be untrue by third-party fact-checkers employed by the company. Users can view the post, but they have to click a “See Post” button on the false information screen to get there. Before a person can share a post that is verified as fake news, they will get a notification saying that the post is false and why it is false.

Facebook also has partnerships with third-party fact-checkers. However, politicians’ advertisements are not subjected to fact-checking because of Facebook’s “free expression” policy. The company claims that not censoring politicians is a central part of democracy, comparing the practice of censorship to communist countries. While this may be patriotic, this can be problematic for users.

As the 2020 presidential election approaches, exposure to fake news will only increase. While it is important that social media companies are attempting to combat fake news, it is really up to readers to do their own research.

There are many easy ways to avoid fake news. First, know your source. Don’t just get your facts from media sites that tend to lean towards your political beliefs. If you suspect that a writer is inserting their beliefs in a story that is not labeled as an Op-Ed, the story is not reliable.

Next, check your facts. Looking up a fact in an article doesn’t take much time, and the three minutes it takes to Google something is worth the assurance that it’s true.

If a politician claims that something is fake news, do the research yourself before you believe them. Often, politicians have used the phrase “fake news” to try and discredit true stories that put them in an unappealing light. This is especially important since some social media sites are not censoring politicians.

Most importantly, don’t share something unless you are positive it’s true. This is one of the most common ways that fake news spreads, and by sharing unreliable stories, you are not just harming yourself, but others as well by not checking the facts before you share them.

You can easily make a difference in stopping the spread of fake news by looking up a fact or reporting a post that shares false information. While not everything is fake news, it is good to keep the possibility in the back of your mind when you are reading an article. For the sake of the 2020 election, it is vital that we all take the proper steps to identify what is fake and what is real.