What is fake news? Why is it so hard to disprove? Who creates it, and why? Read this article to find out.

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The rise of fake news

In December 2016 Edgar M. Welch drove six hours from his home to Washington DC, where he opened fire in a pizzeria with an assault rifle. He had previously read an online news story about the restaurant being the headquarters of a group of child abusers run by Hillary Clinton. He decided to investigate for himself; fortunately, no one was hurt.

The story about Hillary Clinton is one of the most famous examples of the growing phenomenon dubbed ‘fake news’. The conspiracy theory about the pizzeria began to appear on websites and social networks in late October, before the US election. This was quickly denounced by publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. However, many people thought that these papers were themselves lying for political ends and instead of disappearing, the fake story snowballed. Tweets from ‘Representative Steven Smith of the 15th District of Georgia’ claimed that the mainstream media were telling falsehoods. Even though both this name and district were invented, the message was re-tweeted many times. A YouTube refutation of the New York Times article got 250,000 hits.

Fake news stories can be hard to control for several reasons. Many people mistrust established news sources and others just don’t read them, so the debunking of a fake story by a serious newspaper or TV channel has limited effect. In addition, the internet is very hard to police. When users are caught misusing one media platform, they simply go to another one or start up a website themselves.

There are also various reasons why people create fake news. Some have political motives, to belittle or incriminate their opponents. Other websites, like The Onion, deliberately publish fake news as satire – humorous comment on society and current affairs. Another group is in it for the profit: many people clicking on entertaining fake news stories can bring in a lot of advertising revenue. One man running fake news sites from Los Angeles said he was making up to US$ 30,000 a month in this way. There are also those, like the small-town teenagers in Macedonia who wrote fake news stories about Donald Trump, who seem to be motivated partly by money and partly by boredom.

So, what can we do to stop fake news spreading? First, make sure that the websites you read are legitimate, for example by looking carefully at the domain name and the About Us section. Check the sources of any quotes or figures given in the story. Remember that amazing stories about famous people will be covered by the mainstream media if they are true. Only share stories you know are true and let your friends know, tactfully, when they unknowingly share fake news. Together we can turn around the post-truth world!    

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Discussion

Where do you get your news from? Do you follow the mainstream news media? Do you think fake news is a problem?

Comments

Mi_cha_el's picture
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Mi_cha_el 31 March, 2020 - 17:20

So the thing is I get my news just by simply swiping to the right on my phone. There are many local and global news that i could probably be interested in. I trust most of the websites because they´re well known and the titles and pictures are not that much of a clickbait.These sites also say where they got their informations from so I´m not that worried about the news being fake. Altough if a website seems suspicious I´ll try to find proof. I´m not the person that watches tv a lot or reads the newspaper so I only hear something from the mainstream news media when my parents or friends talk about it and most likely I believe them. In my opinion fake news being a problem depends on the person reading it because there are many smart people that can split the fake from the real. But as mentioned not all people can do that so easily so they will believe these news not realizing that they´re fake.

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Augustas2246's picture
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Augustas2246 16 September, 2019 - 19:33

I read news from online websites which is secure and don’t give fake news or spam.Of course i don’t read unsertified articles or if i believe could be fake.Pearsonally i don’t believe news or stories which are shared on social websites as there are many fake stories. I don’t think what fake news are bad if the author of the article writes by himself that the story is fake or it is just for entertainment. Of course it can be the problem that author don’t give information that storie is fake.

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slmp's picture
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slmp 2 May, 2019 - 20:11

Personally I try to follow the mainstream media to become more aware of the events happening in the World. I usually skim through a few pieces of news daily as there is not always enough time to read them that thoroughly. To conclude, by reading news papers it is quite effortless to keep up with the World. To get to the bottom of things is also one of the means to prevent the fake news from spreading out. When you have knowledge about things in the World, it is not so likely that you become the one spreading out the fake news.

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Youjiro's picture
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Youjiro 10 February, 2019 - 11:53

My source of news is on the internet media such as cnn,bbc.But I don't read so often.I read article 1,2 time of month.I also use podcast to get current news .Podcast is easy way to get latest news because of easy listening.I listen podcast in a train with headphone of during dinner with smartphone application. I don't trust other media ,they are over rated all of news and not true.I'm not follow twitter,facebook as well.

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FRANGOGA's picture
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FRANGOGA 12 September, 2017 - 10:58

In my case, I get my news from twitter. This social network allows you to select which sources are prefered to bring you the information. I remember it was so hard to find objective sources when I started using this platform; separating the wheat from the chaff took me too much time, but now, I realise it was worthy. Personally, I don't trust on mainstream news media since they are usually intended to political purposes. Indeed, I consider equally concerning the spread of fake news than the spread of politically retouched news.

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Juanraurbano's picture
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Juanraurbano 4 September, 2017 - 00:16

Nowadays there are many wrong information on the internet. It's really hard to separate the good info for the bad info. I used to check the security of the website, and, I think that this is a good way to certificate the reliability of the info itself. Be careful about fake news!

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