Fake news and how to fight it

Alex Hughes explores the recent issue of fake news on the internet and how it can be fought.


2016 was a year that most people are trying to now put behind them, many claiming it was one of the worst years they can remember with plenty of prominent issues coming up throughout the year. One of the biggest issues that emerged was the realisation of the ‘fake news’ dilemma that we are now facing in a multi-media society.

Fake news is a very general term to describe news that is exaggerated or completely untrue in nature. However, it comes in a number of different forms and has become a pretty widespread phenomenon as of late.

The most common form (and the one that most people have taken offence with) is news that is completely fake and used as a form of click-bait to boost ad revenue. These sites usually use names that are either incredibly similar to a real news source (e.g http://abcnews.com.co/) or they use a name that sounds official. These sites typically pander to the public’s interests in high ranking celebrities or political opinions enticing people to share it among their friends.

Other examples of fake news include satire websites such as TheOnion (who’s satirical style of writing could be mistook for fake news) and misleading headlines published by legitimate news sources which could hint at something untrue.

The trend of fake news first started to become prominent when news arose of the incredible amount of it spreading through Facebook and the team’s inability to moderate it. From here more and more fake news was revealed especially in the run up to the American presidential election, many people arguing that the fake news surrounding the two presidential candidates swayed the votes.

This is an issue that has become world spread now, it is a daily issue and there have been many times when this fake news has become viral and believed to be true for a disturbing length of time. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fought, there are many ways professionals are suggesting to battle the issue. The most obvious one is fact checking and following reliable news sources. When a story comes up that could easily be fake the safest course is to do some background research and see if the news source is reliable or not and if this information has been published elsewhere.

Other people have taken this a step further and have set up forums and groups where fake news sites can be archived to help the public avoid them in the future, especially on websites like Reddit. Other groups have done similar actions through Twitter. In mid-November, a Twitter group called Sleeping Giants became the center of the new movement. The Giants and their followers have communicated with more than 1,000 companies and nonprofit groups whose ads appeared on fake news sites to help cut them off from advertisers.

However it is not just up to the public to help stop the spread, the general well established media can also play a role. Facebook and Linkedin are both technology giants but the way they mediate their feeds is entirely different. Linkedin has a team of moderators that are tasked with creating and curating content whereas Facebook has become a bit of a free for all in terms of content (as we’ve seen in the past with NSFW content all over peoples feeds). This moderation has helped to stop the flow of fake news surfacing on the Linkedin feed while Facebooks is still covered in it.