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Editorial: Fake News and Its Increasing Role in our Society

Photo by Tessa Listo

BY ALEX SOSA, LIFESTYLE EDITOR ’17

On March 16th, Joseph Amditis, the Associate Director at the Center for Cooperative Media from Montclair State University came to Red Bank Regional to talk about a relevant topic in our community today. With recent important political events, such as the election of Donald Trump as President, comes an excessive amount of news articles, some of which, aren’t necessarily true. The educator stressed the importance of distinguishing between real and fake news and gave the students tips on how to do so.

To begin, I would like to introduce the fact that fake news has been around forever. It has come in the form of papers,flyers, and even word of mouth. But as time goes on, and technology advances, fake news becomes more and more relevant everyday. Thousands of unreliable websites are on the Internet with the intent of gaining popularity to their site. Tactics used to attract readers come in the form of catchy titles or fake headlines, promoting crazy or wild stories that draw in an audience. In fact, even if these stories present themselves to be totally out of the ordinary, people start to believe them!

As time goes on, the more people that see the article, the more they think it is true. If it’s on the internet, and multiple individuals have read it, it must be reliable, right? Before people know it, the fake news has spread (whether from physically seeing it or from word of mouth), and everyone starts to believe it is real!

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I had mention the election earlier because it was one of the biggest events of 2016. A major political election like this one gives people a chance to draw attention to their websites with fake news. For example, someone who thoroughly supported Donald Trump might have written false information about Hillary Clinton, or vice versa. In this sense, fake news can also be a form of propaganda. Social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter contribute to this issue, as individuals are allowed to share news stories, without knowing the source.

Earlier this year, The Federalist’s Daniel Payne compiled a list of fake news stories that have been published since Trump won the election in November. The one that I found most interesting was the “Photoshopped Hands Affair”. Dana Schwartz, a writer for the Observer, had tweeted a picture of Trump. She then claimed that he had photoshopped his hands so they would appear bigger. Even though this was proven to be fake news, the tweet had 25K shares. When she corrected her mistake, the article states that the accurate tweet received only eleven shares. This is especially interesting and proves that people want to believe the crazy stories they see online, while the more, boring, realistic fact, becomes uninteresting and irrelevant.

So, how can we prevent this from happening? Facebook has already started, as they have begun to flag fake news stories. Pasted on the bottom of an unreliable article, Facebook may put “Disputed by (insert credible news source)”. While this can not prevent every fake news article from being spread on the internet, it is a step in the right direction.

Additionally, Amditis urged Internet users to check the reliability of the websites with a simple list of steps.

  • First, check the name. If it sounds fishy, then you may want to think of discrediting it.
  • Then, look at the title. If it seems completely out of the ordinary, something may not be right.
  • And the most important step (in my opinion) is to search the information you’re reading on a different website! If it comes up accurately on multiple (not just one) credible news sites, there’s a good chance the information you’re reading isn’t fake news. There are other precautions you might take, but Amditis did warn students to not become totally mistrusting of the news and the media.

So the next time you see an article online, you may want to check its sources.


 

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