The media has always had a monumental impact on the opinions of the public, and while the knowledge of current events is important for a strong social structure and understanding, fake news can have a devastating impact. Being surrounded by mass media from a young age makes us more susceptible to accepting false information presented to us, especially from the sources we trust. Legitimate, fact-based information fed to the public has a tendency to be skewed, edited, and interpreted by the media. This causes the enhanced information to bring about a reaction from the public; who is more likely to see it in black and white rather than getting both sides of the story.
Instances such as the resurfacing of old information or edited truth can lead to public panic and making irrational decisions. A perfect example of such an issue occurred in 2006, when outdated bankruptcy information about a company resurfaced as a current news story, causing investors to panic and the stock to drop drastically. Although the situation was diffused once the legitimacy was discovered, the company suffered severe long term losses. By circulating fake news, or neglecting to explain the truth behind the situation, the media gains an even larger control over the public by appealing emotionally.
Another great example is when a study was done where randomly selected news readers were presented with both real and fake news. The outcome was that nearly as many people accepted the fake news as they did the real news. By using the media as a competition and editing the information behind stories, our perception of reality can be distorted to accept false information and still develop opinions based upon it. By presenting readers with fact-based information from reliable sources, the media can once again be depended on.
It’s no wonder technology companies have been scrambling to build platforms to battle fake news. As an executive at Facebook recently mentioned, “We are making a very important point of not putting ourselves in a position of deciding what’s fake and not fake. I don’t think people want us to be the arbiters of truth. There are third parties out there who do this for a living.” Unfortunately, certain people who exploit fake news by hosting these websites, are in it for the money, more so than the disruption of legitimate news. Hopefully, technology leaders can put an end to their pathetic games.
We are conditioned to accept the things we are told, and rarely question the facts behind the often biased claims. If you would like to avoid fake news in the future, then you can turn to legitimate sources of verification such as Snopes Fact Check.
Readers be warned: Although fake news is nothing more than a sales tactic, the truth can sometimes be worse.