The proliferation of fake news these days is quite disturbing. For the ordinary person, it is hard to discern which news they are reading is genuine and which one is fake because they are all over social media. It’s not common for this news to hit mainstream media but they are a growing pain to social media users especially the millennials who access the web on a daily basis. However, others are making a big issue on a bill that aims to prevent the proliferation of fake news because it might infringe on the right of the freedom of the press, or so they say.
Facebook is the most notorious platform where fake news abounds. It is distressing because of the number of people (several million) visiting this site daily and its impact on people’s behavior over time. It also affects the view of people of what journalism and ethics are all about. People can be misled to believe a certain issue or point of view because they have seen it posted on a popular site like Facebook and more so because it has been liked and shared by thousands of other Facebook users who are as naïve as you. While it is the media’s right to voice out their opinions, it is never right to tell people erroneous information. They should remain objective at all times and tell the news as it is and not makeup stories just to capture the people’s attention.
Fake news and light touch regulation of social media platforms are threats to democracy and press freedom in Ireland, the chair of the Press Council Sean Donlon has warned.
It comes as the Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney cautioned new media organisations that their credibility was being questioned because of the sharing of fake news online.
He said Facebook was aware of such threats to its credibility and warned the public would return to traditional news outlets in search of accurate and trusted information if online content was found to be untrustworthy.
“There are far more checks and balances, where traditional values of good journalism, accuracy, impartiality, depth and context are more likely to be found,” said Mr Feeney.
“If the public requires access to accurate information and informed analysis, then there may well be a return to print and broadcasting.
A major challenge these days is to educate the people how to spot fake news on social media. No matter how obvious it may be, many people seem to love the theatrics of fake news and can’t resist sharing it with others. Unfortunately, many update themselves on the latest news from social media – the platform where fakes news are plenty. They end up confused as to what is fact from fiction, making them an easy prey to fake news.
Why did the false tweet get so much more attention? A new study published June 26 in the journal Nature looks into why fake posts like Tucker’s can go so viral.
Economists concluded that it comes down to two factors. First, each of us has limited attention. Second, at any given moment, we have access to a lot of information — arguably more than at any previous time in history. Together, that creates a scenario in which facts compete with falsehoods for finite mental space. Often, falsehoods win out.
Diego F. M. Oliveira, the study’s lead author and a post-doctoral fellow at Indiana University and Northwestern University, tested this idea by creating a theoretical model for the spread of information. The model was loosely based on epidemiological models that public health researchers use to study the spread of disease. Oliviera’s team had bots or “agents” produce messages containing new memes — essentially fake news — on sites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, and re-share messages created or forwarded by their neighboring bots in a network.
“Quality is not a necessary ingredient for explaining popularity patterns in online social networks,” Oliveira wrote in his paper, adding, “Paradoxically, our behavioral mechanisms to cope with information overload may … increas[e] the spread of misinformation and mak[e] us vulnerable to manipulation.”
People seem to love the overly dramatic posts. It tickles their fancy and they don’t hesitate to fire away on that like and share button making it viral in a few hours’ time. Most people no longer have the time of day to check facts and simply believe the first thing they read on their news feed. It’s a troubling phenomenon because people form opinions based on what they just read and it can even put people in harm’s way when worst comes to worst.
The people should be more vigilant today and choose the social media channels you follow. Avoid the ones that don’t sound legit to avoid exposure to fake news at all. It does not mean that a certain news item is true if it has been shared on social media countless times already enough to make it go viral. Keep that in mind and you’ll do well even if you are a regular social media user. Even media practitioners shouldn’t just pass the blame and take full accountability for their actions and accept the fact that the times are changing. If they don’t want anyone meddling with their business, don’t make up stories that have no substance at all.