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What Is a Fake News and How to Fight It

Fake news – which knowingly or unknowingly spreads unverified and blatantly false information – is great for attracting attention on the Internet. Users believe them and willingly share them on social networks, starting an endless cycle of increasing viral reach. That’s why right now the Internet is overflowing with such publications. 

Selecting only valuable information in the flow of information is an important skill. So today we’ll tell you how to distinguish a really good article, a proven roulette online strategy, video or Facebook post from a complete bullshit. 

What Is a Fake News Story?

Fake news is false or misleading information that is passed off as real fact. 

There are two kinds of fakes floating around in the turbulent streams of the Internet.

The Deliberately False Ones

Their author initially understands – everything he writes isn’t true. Perhaps his goal is to sway his readers toward a certain opinion or simply to “get more class.”

Example: A company is targeting advertising to seniors by offering free plastic window repair. In reality, only the consultation is free, and on the spot customers are being forced to repair at above-market prices.

Correct Information With Incorrect Data

The author may not have fully checked the sources, deliberately exaggerated or concealed some of the information to support the point of view he wants.

Example: The social media of a cosmetology center talks about a laser facial cleansing service that will rejuvenate the skin by 5-10 years. Perhaps this procedure does fight skin aging problems, but the 5-10 year rejuvenation effect is unconfirmed information.

Lies and exaggerations are worth thinking about for anyone who works with advertising and communications. If you don’t want to get “you tricked me!” messages and lawsuits, it’s worth checking your sources, and keeping track of the veracity of all the data you use.

Why Can’t You Just Google It?

The problem is, it’s not just news and political statements that have fakes waiting for us. Try asking the Internet “is chicken broth healthy?” You’ll see a lot of publications, from those that say “Chicken broth cured my grandmother’s cancer” to those that say “Chicken broth caused my grandmother to have inoperable cancer,” with unverified information and no references to scientific papers or credible studies.

The situation is not made any easier by the existence of satirical media outlets like The Onion, ClickeNoelle, and many more social media pages that publish humorous news stories so that at some point they will spread across the web and even make it into the news stream of the serious media.

It might seem easy to tell the difference between outright crazy fiction and real news. But over the years the satirical media have managed to make audiences believe, for example, that George W. Bush voted for his rival Barack Obama in the election, about the introduction of hair-back lanes for men in British swimming pools, and even that Curiosity discovered a tablet on Mars confirming the existence of God. 

Why Fake News Still Exists

Laziness

Checking the veracity of facts, finding supporting research, or doing your own, is much harder than just Googling or even just making up facts.

Personal Gain

Sometimes the author really wants to prove a point, but reality resists it. One has to gloss over the truthful information on a particular topic, or replace it with false information altogether.

Traffic

In the pursuit of reach, reposts and traffic, businesses easily sacrifice the truth. A study by scientists at MIT found that a vivid fake news story has a 70% greater chance of being retweeted than boring, true news. BuzzFeed found that the top 20 fake news stories from a variety of media outlets received more likes and reposts than their 20 most popular real news stories.

How to Tell the Difference Between Quality Content and Fake News

Watch the clip and read the whole article, not just the headline and subheadings

The function of the headline is to provoke us and grab our attention. The function of subheadings is navigational. It’s to tell us what the next paragraph is about, without revealing its content. 

Simply by virtue of their task, headings and subheadings cannot act as conduits of important material information. 

Study the Sources 

Everyone has seen memes about a scientist who is one step closer to understanding the workings of a protein that activates cancer cells, and a journalist who immediately writes a “Scientists Cured Cancer” article.

Check out the Author

High-profile authors, especially popular personalities, often have an “information vector.” The values they preach, the political forces they support, the sponsors behind them. 

Check With the Experts for Information

We live in an age where any expert on any subject is three clicks away. When you see unusual data or information “that changes everything”-you can just Google what the industry’s most authoritative expert thinks about that information. Or even just write to him. You’d be surprised, but experts often respond on social media and via email.

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