The internet has always been a tool that has been used to obtain and share information. Back in the day, we never had to worry whether or not the information we found was made deliberately to deceive. In today’s world, things are a lot more nebulous.
The online world was once considered to be a beacon of hope for knowledge and information. It was supposed to be the tool that would connect people, cultures, countries, and pretty much the whole world and bring it all together in a celebration of intellectual excellence. The net made it completely possible for people to pursue ideas and share them with others.
Eventually, like in most things that involve money or politics, things got ugly. This is what we want to talk about today. We are going to be discussing the concept of fake news and what it is such a big deal for everyone and should be actively fought.
What is Fake News?
Fake News is exactly as it sounds to be. While it doesn’t have to be actual ‘news’ but it is any story or information that is passed around with the explicit intention to deceive people who read it into believing that something has happened a certain way—or that someone has done or said something that they did not actually do.
If you are familiar with the idea of gas lighting, this is it in a fully digital form. Gas lighting is when someone else fully tries to convince you that you said or did something when you actually did not. Fake News can take the form of a quotation, a photo, or even full on news article that is published. They are primarily spread online through social media and through blogs and websites which do not have any clear indication of the source or who the people who are behind the site are.
Fake News is a disruptive presence in already divided world. Many of us are already struggling with trying to communicate with each other. Instead of trying to find better ways to communicate, many of us has fallen to trying to hit other people using fake news as their weapon.
Why is Fake News a Big Deal?
The land of the net has become a battlefield in the last decade or so. Instead of becoming a place where people come together and share factual events and exchanges, the net has become the tool to create more and more lines in the sand. People are pretty passionate about their beliefs in how to live, how to raise kids, what to eat, what to watch, their beliefs in politics and so many more things.
With that factored in, it was only natural that people won’t always agree on the same thing and that’s actually okay. What’s wrong is that Fake News is being used to achieve these things:
The point of fake news is to mislead and lie to people. They make it seem that anyone who is a figurehead of a certain belief, faction, or organization is a terrible human being. We’ve seen this when the likes of PewDiePie, the largest YouTube star in the world, was taken out of context again and again and made it seem like he was the coming of the new Hitler or that he was a misogynistic pig.
There are “news” outlets which publish information that are so out of touch with actuality and so bent on portraying people as a certain thing (usually something negative) that they outright lie and omit information just to get people to agree with their narrative.
A lot of people do not make it a point to research beyond the article that they are reading and this empowers fake news to spread the misinformation.
Cultivating Active Aggression
Other than having differing ideas, people like to feel things. They like to be happy but mostly they like to be angry. The whole culture of social justice warriors and keyboard activists are taking a more aggressive turn. Fake News empowers these people to feel righteous in their aggression and their anger toward unsuspecting targets.
While feeling angry is anyone’s basic right, it is what a lot of people do with that anger that can have a truly sinister turn in the world. People’s businesses get boycotted; people even lose their jobs just because an internet mob was fed wrong information. This has happened in the case where a YouTuber has mistakenly deduced that a certain man was the culprit of a crime. This led to that person being the recipient of harassment and grave threats against their property and their person.
It didn’t even matter that it was proven that the guy was actually innocent. This culture of active aggression is one which is empowered by false information and Fake News.
How to Spot Fake News
As a person who actively uses the internet, it is your responsibility to peruse and carefully analyze the information that you are consuming. There are several things that you can do to actively spot fake news. Here are some of them:
People generally stick to a single article to obtain their information and form their decisions or their feelings about a topic or a person. This helps fake news take deeper root into our societal consciousness. You can fight that by making it a point to do comparative reading. Read more than one source to see if the information you are consuming is factual and not biased or false.
It can be difficult to try to find ideas or sources that go against what you believe but it is necessary in order to be a better informed individual. It is critical that we evolve past our biases and understand that there is more than what we want to believe that is actually happening. It is also completely possible that the faction that you do not agree with has an actual point or is innocent of what the Fake News has said they were guilty of doing or saying.
Take Note of the Source
The trouble with Fake News is that they can pop up anywhere. They can take the form of a mimic site which takes the form of a publication or a journal body that you respect. You may believe that you are seeing facts presented to you when they are in fact, lies. What you can do is to take note of the source. Is it the actual and official source of the publication or person in question?
If you spot fake news published on a regular basis, you should make it a point to actively avoid sites which do that.
We hope that today’s discussion helped open your eyes about the very serious problem that has been invading the sanctity of journalism and responsible information sharing. We all live on this rock together and will do us no good if we actively consume details or “facts” which lead us to actively hate another faction or people.
We all need to take an active role and not let our personal beliefs and biases blind us to the fact that even the points we agree with could be, in fact, manufactured propaganda. Have you come across fake news? What did it look like? What do you do when you come across fake news?