So what is “Fake News“?
Let’s go down in the memory lane for a while.
These are some of the wide spread hoaxes in social media which spread a few years ago. Most of us have probably gone through this phase of social media when these hoaxes were funny. These were probably spread by some teen who was bored and wanted some fun. These were too obvious to be true.
We have come a long way since then. These little hoaxes and rumors have stopped being funny and ridiculous. Now, it has become scary and a serious problem. We are talking about “Fake News”.
What is Fake News?
The Wikipedia says-
“Fake news is a type of journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.”
In layman’s term Fake News is a deliberately planted news information that is meant to create immediate sensation. With rise in online population and the vast outreach of social media, it is way easier to spread a hoax than it was a few years ago. Many people especially the younger generation due to lack of patience, don’t like to sit in front of a network television to enjoy an hour-long news segment. The immaturity of TV journalists in India doesn’t help much either. Thus, many of us rely heavily on social media for our daily input of information. This has helped Fake News to spread across the population even before verification.
Among many bad and horrifying things happened in 2016, a surge of Fake News is a major one. No wonder people call it the worst year of the century.
Why and how does Fake News Spread?
Most important reason may be for the last few decades, journalists have gained a certain trust among people. We tend to believe whatever we see in the news. Now that we have shifted to online media for news, it’s hard for us to doubt the source. We kinda have the same trust in social media as we have on mainstream media. Fake News takes advantage of our trust.
Another reason may be the people who spread this news have gone clever. The sites where these links lead look exactly like a website of a authenticate source. For example look at the image below.
This exactly looks like the website of BBC News. When the spammers use such meticulous way, it is easier to fall for such news.
Effects of Fake News
The best example of how harmful Fake News can be is the “Pizza Gate Scandal” in USA. This conspiracy theory emerged near the end of the 2016 USA presidential election. On October 30, 2016, a reputed white supremacist Twitter account claimed the New York City Police Department had discovered the existence of a pedophilia ring linked to members of the Democratic Party. The conspiracy theory spread like a wild fire. This led some people to believe that in Washington DC, a huge child sex racket exists which operates in the basement of Pizza Parlor and the Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton is actively involved in operating the racket. The story was discredited. However, the damage was already done. A man opened fire at a pizza parlor. He later claimed that he was investigating the scandal personally. Fortunately, there was no casualty.
It is believed that Fake News played a big role in the election of the current president of USA, Donald J Trump.
There are cases where even big politicians and main stream media have fallen for Fake News. Here are some examples.
Union minister Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman retweeted this without verifying a few days ago.
Also, do you guys remember just after demonetization, many of the main stream media especially Zee News reported without verification that the 2000 rupee note has a GPS chip? That created a mass hysteria.
In short Fake News has a widespread and sometimes catastrophic effect.
Also, Do Check This Out The Reason Why there are different types of Train Numbers Some start with 0 some with 1
What should we do to avoid Fake News?
Jokes apart, there are a few things to ensure that we don’t fall for Fake News.
- Be skeptic– Don’t trust a news right away even when it’s from a known source. Always verify it.
- Check if the same news has come from multiple trust worthy sources– If multiple sources report the news, it’s most likely to be true.
- Check the sources– There are some websites whose main aim is to push agendas and conspiracy theories into people’s belief. Make sure not to follow such. It is advisable to follow the social media handles of known main stream media.
- Read Beyond Headlines– Often websites set the titles in a way to create a sensation. Read the whole article before reaching to a conclusion. Also, avoid click baits.
- Check the website URL– Sometimes the conspiracy theorists create a clone of the websites of well-known sources. Check the URL to confirm whether you are at a right place or not.
- Ask the experts– In case you have doubts, ask the experts in the concerned fields.
- Check your biases– This is probably the most important. If you read an article which confirms your bias, you are most likely to believe it whether that’s true or not. So, try to judge the news from a neutral point of view.
Also, there are a few hacks to check whether a news is true or not. For example, there are websites which keep track of latest fake news and bust it. Some of such sites are-
Also, if you want to check a Whats-app forward, send it to +919035067726. This is the Whats-app number of Check4Spam. They usually reply within a few hours.
Both Facebook and Google are trying hard to curb fake news. However, it also requires a bit of effort and vigilance from our side to stop the influence of Fake News. Stay aware and make sure to report the posts which seem fake. Let’s hope Fake News will die down gradually.
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