Collateral Damage: How ‘Fake News’ Hurts Us All
If you came anywhere near the media in 2017, you probably heard about fake news. Whether it’s coming from Russia, the Right, the Left, straight down the middle, your grandmom or your neighbor, fake news is hurting us all – especially those of us who like to spruce up our Facebook posts.
What is fake news?
Fake news is a type of misinformation that is typically used to spread hoaxes or propaganda. Earlier this week, Pope Francis called it “disinformation that is intended to deceive and manipulate consumers for political and economic interests.”
While some may be inclined to call parody news like The Onion ‘fake news,’ this simply isn’t correct. In reality, fake news organizations are incredibly subtle, disguising heavily biased or false reports as objective truth.
One of the easiest ways to spread fake news was by using Facebook’s link metadata customization tools – linking to articles with no factual data, changing the metadata and images to make it look like the link had come from a reputable source, and sharing it through the network.
How can this be? Certainly your friends wouldn’t share things that they hadn’t read, would they?
According to one study, 59 percent of links shared online have never actually been clicked.
The true fake news organizations have taken advantage of ‘only-read-the-headlines’ habits to spread misinformation and control what stays on our political and cultural agendas. In response, Facebook’s latest updates have launched in part to combat the spread of fake news on its platform, and LinkedIn has also changed their customization settings to make sources harder to obscure.
News feed updates are only part of the solutions. We are all responsible for preventing the spread of fake news each and every day. Sharing headlines without checking the source is a dangerous game, one that Pope Francis adds has been happening since “the ‘crafty serpent’ in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news[.]”