Fake news

This topic will help you understand the influence of social media on fake news, how it can be created and easily spread, and how you can identify what is real or fake.

Learning outcomes

This topic will assist in your understanding of:

  • what is fake news and how you can spot it
  • how social media can influence fake news
  • how fake news is created and is easily spread

What is Fake News?

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”- Mark Twain

The term ‘fake news’ has emerged as a widely-used phrase in the last few years, and it’s a concept that our society is now far more aware of. However, distinguishing truth from fiction is a complex matter, and most people over-estimate their abilities in this regard.

Fake news is not always an out and out lie, but its potential for harmfulness raises a host of ethical questions. It is this ‘twisting of the truth’ or at times genuine lies that can have an impact on society. The most obvious example in contemporary culture is the 2020 US Presidential Election. The votes were in, the states won and the winner was Joe Biden yet Mr Donald Trump tweeted the below tweet stating he had won the election. Twitter provided a disclaimer underneath the post to alert the reader that this might not be correct information. Yet, without these types of disclaimers would you have believed the below statement as legitimate information?

Its important to question sources and not assume that everything you read on your social media and other online platforms is the truth. The below infographic from IFLA can get you started thinking about how to tell what is real or fake.

The science of fake news

Data scientists are investigating ways to track the spread of information (and misinformation) across online social networks, including through the use of automated bots.  Watch this 2 minute video about some of the tools used, see how fake news spreads so easily, and how you can help prevent it.  

Play a fake news game

Play the Bad News game. In this game, you get to be someone who creates fake news.  Drop your ethical standards and become an unscrupulous media magnate.  There are techniques you will need to use, such as impersonation, preying on people’s emotions, polarizing your audience, spreading conspiracy theories, discrediting your opponents, and trolling.  How many followers will you get, and how successful will you be in building up your fake credibility?

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