Malek Allari | Editor in Chief
Our world nowadays is filled with fake news, and they travel fast with advances in social media. However, what is fake news? Fake news is news that was created by people to mislead and misinform the community around them. For example, a person can write a post on Facebook that Connecticut has finally made a vaccine. However, they do not want to distribute it. The people who follow that person would read the post and then share it if they believe it. Moreover, all the people who follow the people who shared the post would read it, which is how fake news spread. Another way might be gossip and rumors in a schoolyard or at a Sunday BBQ.
Fake news and media bias often overlap and confuse people between the two meanings. Media bias, unlike fake news, is partly true. Media bias is partially correct. For example, it is May 2020, and someone is that a particular drug could make people recover from COVID-19. In truth, the drug that the person mentioned might help with the fight against COVID-19, but it does not cure and make people fully recover and become immune. It is essential to know the difference between fake news and media bias because people sometimes say something true but provide incorrect proof. When people become more trustworthy and try to provide news to the community, they will do anything to keep their reputation, even if it means to spread fake news (entirely false), so that people would still read their articles. Although fake news puts people in danger and makes them untrustworthy, it would be too late, and the people who spread fake news would already get the money they wanted.
It is entirely wrong and unethical to call a news story “fake” just because people do not want to accept it. A very well known person has some issues about that. Suppose a media company released a “true” story, and it did not come to their expectations or sometimes against them. In that case, they will say that this media company is untrustworthy and keeps spreading fake news. Sometimes, this person would just spread fake news and make his supporters believe that it is “true;” however, when people provide proof against this person’s statement, they go on saying that the proof is biased.
Nevertheless, amid all the media hand-wringing about fake news and how to deal with it, one fact seems to have gotten lost: Fake news is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since news became a concept 500 years ago with the invention of print—a lot longer than verified, “objective” news, which emerged in force a little more than a century ago. Fake news took off at the same time that news began to circulate widely after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439. The trial over Galileo’s findings in 1610 also created a desire for scientifically verifiable news and helped create influential scholarly news sources. But as printing expanded, so flowed fake news, from sensational stories of sea monsters and witches to claims that sinners were responsible for natural disasters.These religiously inspired accounts of the earthquake sparked the famed Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire to attack religious explanations of natural events. They made Voltaire an activist against fake religious news. The Calas story eventually sparked outrage against such fake legal stories, torture, and even execution. Yet even the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment could not stop the flow of fake news. One persistent “cottage industry” of fake news in antebellum America was African-Americans’ stories spontaneously turning white. In other instances, fake news reports of slave uprisings or crimes by
slaves led to terrible violence against African-Americans. One silver lining in this long and alarming history of fake news is yellow journalism. Its results—from civil violence to war—caused a backlash and sent the public in search of more objective news.
In the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy was accused of manipulating reporters like “Pavlov’s dogs.” However, a New Yorker article from the period insisted that reporters should report and not “tell readers which ‘facts’ are really ‘facts’ and which are not.” By the 1960s, a new generation of reporters signed on to report “non-establishment” stories. It was not until the rise of web-generated news that our era’s journalistic norms were seriously challenged, and fake news became a powerful force again. But today, these popular role models and societal links are gone. With them, a trusted filter within civil society—the sort of filter that can say with authority to fellow local citizens that fake news is not only fake, it is also potentially deadly. Real news is not coming back in any tangible way on a competitive local level or as a driver of opinion in a world where most of the population does not rely on professionally reported news sources, and so much news is filtered via social media and by governments.
Fake news now travels faster due to social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. The “Like,” “Share,” and “Comment” buttons help fake news spreading across cyberspace and reach out to people in a matter of hours instead of a matter of days and weeks if it was used in the printed media. Although Facebook and other apps do not know the origins or the meaning of this fake news, it is not designed to wipe out fake news because it is not programmed to locate or check if it is fake news. That problem led Facebook to face trials for spreading fake news when it is not programmed to prevent people from sharing. Facebook was a program intended for people to connect and share their thoughts with everybody. They never thought of the unethical people who would spread fake news and mislead people into doing something that would harm them.
What can people do to stop spreading fake news? If someone is unsure of the credibility of the “news,” do not share and like the post. It would make Facebook believe the story and make it go viral, resulting in the post to show up on people’s Facebook pages. In return, they believe the fake news. People can google the post and the story. If it were an older hoax, the top results would be stories and YouTube videos stating that the story is entirely fake. Suppose people know that the story is fake. In that case, they should not comment or put any emoji as a reaction because that will make Facebook think that the story is impacting the environment, and they would automatically promote the post. Instead, they should report the post as fake news. After reporting, Facebook’s responsibility is to remove the post or even ban the people who made the post, which would prevent them from posting fake news. People can click on the website, and if there were many ads, a hidden satire disclaimer hidden at the bottom of the page, this is all proof of fake news. People should not also share it, even if they are trying to spread awareness. If it triggers people’s emotions, they should check twice, reread the article or story and think before sharing it. These are simple ways to stop spreading fake news on social media platforms.
The only way that rumors and gossip be stopped is by providing proof that it is all false. People should stop talking about it and stop spreading fake news if they had ethical values.