All You Need to Know About Avoiding Fake News

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Over the past few years, the impact and importance of social media has changed drastically. The advent of social media brought about opportunities that we couldn’t have thought about, but every coin has two sides. Social media brought along with it many issues too. 

Although the privacy laws have been in discussions lately, another blazing issue has been the rise- Bots, trolls, and people through which fake news is propagated. In this age when many youngsters receive their dose of general knowledge and world news from WhatsApp forwards and memes, it has become essential to look into this problem to stay truly well informed.

How does it work?

Bots in this context are computer algorithms written to execute tasks repetitively and autonomously in online social networking sites. Bots often possess artificial intelligence and they interact with real users and spread messages and news. Artificial intelligence also stimulates the behaviour of users like posting patterns, etc. This helps in the propagation of fake news. Bots promote fake news using hashtags and trends. They keep repeating it so that it appears to others that it is true since it has got so many hits.

Bots only accelerate the process. Fake news is spread when people blindly believe whatever news they read on social media. Bots use this to their advantage and seem to make the news credible.

The Impact

Learning about fake news and forming opinions based on them is one of the major impacts of the propagation of fake news. Being misinformed about something is highly dangerous. These bots particularly spread fake news which tends to influence people. This happens particularly during the period of elections and fake news about celebrities also gains a lot of traction.

Recently, NATO’s Centre for Strategic Communication in Riga discovered that bots through social media and online dating platforms such as Tinder can easily dupe the soldiers. They have started looking for ways to counter false information.

Alphabet (parent company of Google) researchers say that the trolls might use fake videos and new tricks during the 2020 US elections to sway the audience. The researches warn that they will use real videos but present them in a manipulative way to suggest something else.

Singapore Law has banned fake news and the law came into effect on 2nd October 2019. This allows the Government to block or remove it and the offenders will face fines and prison time. Although this law stirred a controversy that it might hinder people’s right to freedom of speech, the essence is that the issue of fake news is real and cannot be ignored.

It has also been found that fake news spreads rapidly but when someone proves them false and tries to spread that message, it doesn’t spread as quickly. People form opinions quite fast based on such news and it is quite difficult for everyone to accept the truth as the false news has already been spread rapidly.

How to remain informed?

There are several ways through which you can distinguish between fake news and real news. Some ways are:

1. Don’t fall for the headlines- Often fake news consists of headlines in all caps and followed with several exclamation and question marks. These headlines may consist of unbelievable and shocking news.

2. Observe the links- Websites or blogs promoting fake news often make little changes to actual news sites. For example- looks like the news site ABC News but it is a false link.

3. Look out for the dates- Often, false news will have dates and timelines which do not make sense.

4. Photos and formatting- False news often consists of spelling mistakes and weird formatting of the text. Many times, they consist of photos taken out of context and videos which are manipulative.

5. Satire- At times this news may be just jokes or satire and not meant to be taken literally. Check if they are known for such kind of posts.

6. Fact check- Don’t fall for the blindly forwarded messages in your Whatsapp groups. Just because someone you know has shared it doesn’t mean it has to be true. There are several credible fact-checking websites available online. Many actual news websites have dedicated a section for fact-checking.

7. Report It-Report news that comes across as fake. It is also essential to politely confront whoever sent the message. If you just ignore it, some other people might be unaware and will be misinformed about the same. 

In the current world where data changes to information faster than ever, it is vital to show the red flag when something seems too doubtful if you don’t you might end up believing some celebrities to be dead when they are actually hale and hearty or simply getting to know wrong facts.

Written by Sunidhi Shende
Edited by Maitreyi Mehndiratta

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