Disinformation and low-quality journalism did not emerge yesterday. But the situation has worsened due to the rapid popularization of social networks and the speed of content distribution, thanks to the available Internet and smartphones. And every day we are bombarded with a barrage of conflicting news reports.
It may not be obvious at first glance, but the mission of fakes is detrimental to society. Fake news sows panic, encourages unrest and rash action, misleads, deceives and creates a persistent sense of anxiety and uncertainty in people.
All this is exacerbated by the speed of the spread of fakes in the media and the fact that, according to a study by PRNEWS, 90% of the audience cannot distinguish reliable news from fake. And people, without realizing it, become peddlers of fakes, sending and commenting on false information.
And if some fakes are conditionally harmless, then most of them pose a threat to people’s health or are a tool for manipulating consciousness.
Here is one example of how a common bacterium can cause fake news. A few years ago, information appeared on RuNet and was periodically repeated about the distribution of bananas among the population, which pumped the blood of HIV-infected people.
In fact, what users mistook for blood was the result of the vital activity of a red-colored bacterium. But the message about the “African party” with HIV, which, two weeks after the “disastrous march” across Africa, reached Russia, instantly spread through forums and groups.
Despite the many official comments from employees of the Ministry of Health, representatives of retail and other experts, the horror story was still circulating on the Internet for a long time.
This is a classic example of a viral fake: fear, like other negative emotions, stops common sense and logic, leaving readers no chance to doubt what is written.
In the wake of shivering pictures on the Internet, most people forget the obvious. In particular, about how the infection is transmitted and that HIV is unstable in the external environment, dying in a few minutes.
The main principle of generating fake news is the most negative or absurd information that is regularly replicated in the online space.
A fake evokes the most powerful, negative emotions – anger, anxiety, fear, anxiety, hatred that arise in a person due to hitting his point of pain. For example, problems in business, low salaries, lack of social guarantees, rising food prices.
Types of fake news
There are different types of fake news. They depend on the motivation of those who create them. For example:
- Clickbait headlines. Sensationalism sells – outrageous and unusual stories or distorted images increase the number of views and distribution of publications on the Internet. Clickbait titles are used specifically to attract visitors to the site and increase the income of site owners from advertising. However, this is often done at the expense of the truthfulness and accuracy of the information.
- Propaganda. For propaganda purposes, false information or distorted facts are used, the purpose of which is to mislead the audience and promote a political program or a biased point of view.
- Low quality journalism. Sometimes journalists don’t have time to check all the facts before publishing, and as a result, common mistakes breed fake news. However, updated trusted sources will not contain such errors, and readers will be able to obtain reliable information.
- Misleading headlines. Sometimes the news itself may be generally true, but a sensational or misleading headline is used to encourage readers to open it. This can lead to fake news, as social media, the main distribution site for news, usually only displays the headline and a small snippet of the article.
- Fake Content. In this case, false, made-up stories are presented as information from genuine news sources in order to mislead the audience.
- Satire and parody. Some fake news is published for the purpose of entertainment. These are satirical stories based on current news or famous personalities, with humor, irony and elements of exaggeration. Such stories do not try to mislead the audience, they should not be taken seriously. Notable examples of satirical websites are The Onion and The Daily Mash.
How Fake News Spreads
Fake news is usually spread through fake news sites that often copy the look and feel of genuine news sources in order to inspire user confidence. According to research, false information spreads faster through social media than real news. The reason fake news spreads so quickly is because it appeals to emotions, so it often contains strange claims or evokes anger or fear.
Social media feeds prioritize content based on engagement metrics, which is based on how often users share and like a particular post, rather than how accurate or well crafted it is. This approach leads to widespread news coverage with clickbait headlines, exaggerated data and disinformation. Social media companies are treated as platforms, not publishers, and therefore do not have the same legal liability as traditional media. However, as the political and legal aspects develop, the situation may change.
On social networks, fake news can be propagated by bots that mass-produce and distribute articles, regardless of the reliability of their sources. Bots can create fake accounts that subsequently earn followers, recognition and credibility. Some of these accounts are used to spread false information.
Trolls are users whose goal is to provoke disputes and irritate other users. They also play a role in spreading fake news. Sometimes they may be paid for such actions for political reasons. The terms “troll farm” or “troll factory” are sometimes used to refer to organized groups of trolls who attempt to interfere in political decision-making.
Fake news sometimes uses deepfakes. These are fake videos created with digital software, machine learning and face swapping. The images are combined into new videos showing events or actions that never happened in reality. The results can be very convincing, not allowing to identify them as false.
How to recognize fake news
Read the whole story, not just the headline
Do not repost information just because of the screaming headline. Often the media will use catchy phrases at the beginning of a news story to grab your attention. This strategy is followed not only by tabloid media, but also by most officially registered and popular publications. Often a high-profile headline can misinform the reader. For example, when talking about the trial of three Kansk schoolchildren, most of the leading Russian media wrote that the students were convicted for trying to blow up the FSB building in Minecraft. This turned out to be untrue – teenagers were convicted for making explosives (however, questions still remain on the case).
Study the source of the news, see who wrote it. Please refer to the source if necessary.
The media always indicate the source of information and put a link to it. In the case of particularly important news, we advise you not to be lazy and follow this link to study the original source. There were cases when major news agencies instead of a third-party primary source referred to each other, and the hero of the news later denied the information published in the message.
Make sure you’re reading real media and not a hastily created fake account
False resources can disguise themselves as popular ones, copying the design and slightly changing the name of the original. The difference can be as little as one letter. Another sign that you are reading junk media is the publication of old news on high-profile topics from “shocking videos” of any subject to rumors from the life of stars. We advise you to check especially high-profile news for freshness by driving their title into Yandex.News or Google News.
Be especially careful about unfamiliar social media accounts.
If the source of the news is not the media, but a personal user account of one of the social networks, you should make sure that you are not dealing with a fake. Fake accounts tend to post mostly reposts. Also look at when the account was created, how many mutual friends and other users are subscribed to it (both too few and too many subscribers can be doubtful), if the profile has uploaded photos and videos, how unique they are. If the page is empty, then most likely it is fake and should not be trusted as a source of information.
Consider the bias and interest of the author
Excessive emotionality in the news is one of the first signs of propaganda or fake news. Do not forget to also check the date of the hysterically written news, as well as its author – what texts he wrote before, whether there is information about him on the Internet, what views he holds.
Pay attention to the literacy of the text
If there are a lot of typos, punctuation and spelling errors in the news, most likely it is a fake. Journalists, as a rule, check the text several times before publication, including for literacy. A few errors in the news should alert you – with a high probability such material was written in a hurry, often this happens in order to quickly throw in misinformation.
Do not blindly trust photos and videos
Usually, the presence of a photo or video increases the credibility of the news. We advise you to be skeptical even about such iron, at first glance, evidence – sometimes pictures can be photoshopped, and videos were made in the wrong places and at the wrong time, which the author of the publication calls. It can be difficult to verify the authenticity of such materials, so we advise you to look at what other media write about the events and people captured in the photo and video.
See how information about the same phenomenon is presented in different sources
Reading news on the same topic in different sources can help, if not to get a complete picture of what is happening, then at least look at a particular situation from different angles. For example, in a recent story about a teacher from St. Petersburg, who was allegedly forbidden to read to the children of Kharms, everything turned out to be far from being as simple as it seemed at first glance. To come to this conclusion, the journalists interviewed all the participants in the conflict, without unconditionally trusting the most scandalous version of what happened.