In honour of World Press Freedom Day today, we are uncovering everything you need to know about everyone’s favourite topic: fake news.
In this three-part series, we will delve into the definition of fake news, where it came from and how you can prevent falling victim to fake news.
Part 1: An overview of fake news
In today’s society, everything is impacted by the digital world: our conversations, our shopping, our stories, our photos, our news.
There’s hardly an area of our lives that the digital realm doesn’t touch. We’ve become so dependent and reliant on technology to keep us connected that it’s hard to imagine our lives without it.
But what are we consuming while online? Most likely, it’s fake news.
What is fake news?
Whether we like it or not, fake news is flooding our online encounters. Many social media users come across more fake news stories and headlines in newsfeeds than real ones.
Fake news comes in many forms: from tabloids to photoshopped images to catchy unfactual headlines; fake news is designed to trick the reader into thinking what they’re reading is real. Websites that strictly publish fake news to make money include The Onion, The Beaverton and American News.
The sheer power of social sharing creates the perfect opportunity for sharing clickbait headlines to maximize reach and profit.
You might be thinking: “You can make money from fake news?!”
Yes. And lots of it.
Fake news outlets make money based on the popularity of the link. They write stories they know will attract mass attention, drawing on current or popular events around the world. The headlines aren’t revolutionary or bold ideas, rather they confirm a bias readers of a certain target audience already believe. The more shares, clicks and interactions a link gets, the more money the fake news outlet makes. Some outlets earn upwards of $30,000 USD per month using this method.
You’d think, however, that people would see through the holes in the article and not buy into the fake news, right?
A study released by a team of Stanford researchers shows students and youth, the most active audiences on social media, are unable to verify real news from fake news. On top of that, 59% of links on all social platforms aren’t clicked on. This means most people are reading and sharing the headline without actually reading the article.
However, for the 41% that do read the article, fake news outlets try to deceive us by making the website and articles look authentic. Articles have bylines and appear to be written by accredited or award-winning journalists. But a quick Google search will reveal the author doesn’t exist or has never won an award. Quotes from sources are often missing or fabricated from unverified sources. Hyperlinks, meant to substantiate their claims, are often also fake or the link is broken.
Wondering where fake news comes from and where it all began? Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!