There was a time when the news was either considered relevant news or non-news. The latter consisted of information that was so mild or inconsequential that it wasn’t even worthy of being published. Now, “fake news,” has become woven into the fabric of the free press, to the extent that it’s hard to distinguish what’s real from what’s fabricated.
Sometimes fake news is obvious, as in the case of a headline announcing the engagement between actors Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Snopes had this to say:
As far as we know, there’s never been any hint of romance between them outside of the characters they portrayed in the 1985 film ‘Out of Africa.’
Both actors have long been wed to someone else — Robert Redford with Sibylle Szaggars since 2009, and Meryl Streep with Don Gummer since 1978 — making a planned or present marriage between them somewhat awkward, if not criminal.
A dead giveaway was the weird way the article moved from the topic of romance to a sales pitch for a skin product. It began with a fake quote from Streep saying the couple always loved each other to a comment about how young the 67 year-old actresses’ skin looks.
Fakery in these types of stories is obvious. But what about more legitimate news outlets? Because mainstream media is the product of Corporate America, it is no secret that what we often read or hear is influenced to some degree by corporate and political interests. This can make Trump’s cry of fake news seem legitimate. But, in his case, it is likely an attempt to discredit journalists who disagree with him.
Fox News, Breitbart News and other right-wing conservative outlets that support Trump are known for either fabricating stories, slanting the news angles until the facts are almost unrecognizable, or ignoring facts that make the president look bad.
And with this president, himself creating fake news through his own Twitter feed, the ability to detect what is real or unreal reporting adds to the confusion.
So how can those interested in reality tell the difference between what’s fake and what’s real?
According to the Guardian, “If you’re not sure if a site is legitimate, look for any red flags in its domain name, such as ‘.com.co’ and its ‘About Us’ section. Google the sources of any quotes or figures given in the story. Most fake news don’t have either, a warning sign in itself.”
If the first you’ve heard of a particular event is from a website you’ve never heard of, there may be a reason. See if other more mainstream sites have run the story.
Dailydot.com has compiled a list of websites that either purposely publish false information or are otherwise entirely unreliable, broken down by category. Facebook is reportedly implementing a policy that will flag stories of questionable legitimacy with an alert that says “Disputed by 3rd party fact-checkers.”
We all have a part to play to insure the integrity of our news. We must question sources and fight to make sure freedom of the press prevails at a time when our president is trying to shut the media out.
One thing we can all do is to share responsibly. You are an influencer of those who follow you on social media, even if you don’t think of yourself in those terms. Think twice about the news you share. You wouldn’t want to be the cause of wrong information going viral.