Let’s get one thing clear: the problem of fake news is a real problem.
Now, there are all sorts of hoax news websites being produced every single day in places like Macedonia, Romania and Eastern Europe. While these are in the English language, the content that they contain are intentionally misleading or flat out false.
Now you may be asking yourself, how can somebody benefit from news that is obviously fake? How can somebody benefit financially from spreading news that doesn’t reflect reality on the ground?
Well, the answer is actually quite simple. You see, when fake news is spread in hyper partisan areas of social media like Facebook groups, certain types of Facebook pages as well as personal walls, people do sit up and pay attention because they see news that seems to validate their point of view.
These people are very susceptible. These people are the prime targets of such fake news because they are more likely to share such content. And when they do this, the problem starts again because usually, birds of a feather flock together.
People who are conservative tend to have friends who, by and large, are also conservative. The same applies to people on the liberal side. Since you have this reality happening on social media, it’s no surprise that fake news, both in terms of websites or in terms of specific news items, tend to spread far and wide in a very short period of time.
To combat this problem, we are presented with two options. First, there’s a technical option offered by Facebook where you can actually flag such materials. Well, let me tell you, if you’ve ever tried to contain fake news this way, you probably will be frustrated.
Chances are, it seems like a judgment call whether a website is completely unreliable or the piece of news that you’re consuming is flat out wrong. Nobody really has the time, effort and energy to get to the root of the matter by slicing and dicing that information to say, once and for all, that the news is fake.
Do you see the problem here? It can be doable, but the problem is, it takes just too much time. And when you are consuming content off Facebook by scrolling down on your mobile device, you really don’t have that luxury of time, which brings us to the second solution, which is, really, the only solution.
From a practical perspective, this is the only way to fight fake news. And this involves detecting news bias.
When you look at a news item and you see that it is slanted towards a particular ideological perspective, you need to sit up and pay attention. This is your cue. And if you look at the headline and it is misleading or it is intended get some sort of raw emotional reaction, then chances are, you are looking at a piece of fake news that is so biased that it can be harmful.
That’s how you detect news bias. This is how you protect yourself from fake news. You just have to read between the lines. You have to look at the total picture and you have to be proactive, otherwise, it’s going to spread like wildfire. At the very least, you should hold yourself back from clicking the “share” button.