Fake news is now a regular occurrence. A news story that’s just too good to be true rockets around the internet. Just a sampling from the last couple of months:
- Catholic Pope Francis declares that all religions are true
- North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un murdered his uncle by feeding him to a pack of 120 starving dogs
- Sarah Palin accidentally flies to South Korean for Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa
- Facebook is banning all religious posts at the end of March
All of these “news stories” are patently false. Most fake news sputters out. But not as often anymore. Now some of them are being picked up by legitimate news outlets, especially on their social channels like Twitter and Facebook.
Take the Kim Jong Un fake news story. That not only circulated on FOX-News, the Daily Mirror, NBC News and dozens of other outlets, but these news outlets wrote their own news stories about it before it was finally debunked.
Being fooled by fake news is now a given for consumers. But here comes the media!
The problem for consumers (and now media companies) is the way many of us are now accessing the news.
Gone are the days when people read the print newspaper with their morning coffee or on their morning commute (take any subway in any major city and all you see are people reading devices. Nary a paper in sight.). Who tunes into the 6 p.m. local news cast anymore? Heck, most people are still at work or commuting home at that time.
The advantage of those news sources was the rigor of their fact-checking. Fact-checking, however, takes too long in the age of the tweet.
News now comes in two major flavors: Search and Social. And fake news thrives on the latter.
Social media is instant and rumors and speculation can spread like a virus. Your friends mean well, but often they post the photo with the political quote without checking if it is accurate. A quick search on Google (or at Snopes.com) can often provide you with the right information – but that takes time.
Some of these fake stories are manufactured by pranksters, but some of them are just poor reporting that spreads before it can be corrected.
Look at some of the “news” stories that raced across Facebook the last few weeks:
- Sarah Palin opining on FOX-News that Flight 370 may have flown so high it went to heaven
- Asparagus cures cancer
- Obama has been caught using a stolen Social Security number from a dead man
While I wish the middle one were true, all of these “news” stories are fake. Sometimes I wonder if the majority of the news I’m reading and viewing on my social networks can even be defined as “news.” Much of it is disguised propaganda, opinion dipped in pseudo journalism, and facts that have been cherry-picked to make a point – rather than to inform.
Are we moving into the golden era of misinformation?
What do you think?
Should we be teaching people how to check the validity of news sources? Is fake news becoming a real problem? Have you been fooled by a fake news report?
Kim Jong Un DIDN’T feed his uncle to the dogs (via Washington Post)
President Obama stolen social security number DEBUNKED (via Snopes.com)