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Why Is Fake News Bad? The Ways Of Disinformation Media, Exaggerated Truth, And High Tech Hallucinations

Fake news can be a very emotional subject, but why is fake news bad? Most people agree that fake news is bad, but many of us disagree on what exactly is fake news. In today’s world, technology plays a huge role in the creation of fake news. With the help of social media, cable news, and AI-generated deepfakes, it’s easier than ever to spread misinformation. This article will explore the impact of technology on fake news and offer solutions to minimize its harmful effects.

Why Is Fake News Bad – Understanding The Concept Of Fake News.

Why Is Fake News Bad?

Fake news refers to the spread of false, misleading, or inaccurate information, typically through sensationalist headlines and fabricated stories. Additionally, these stories often seek to manipulate public opinion, incite fear or hatred, or discredit individuals or organizations.

Now, one challenge with the term “Fake News” is it is hard to define. For example, BBC defines Fake News as “… news or stories on the internet that are not true.” Further, the BBC breaks the definition down further into two kinds of fake news: 1) deliberately false and 2) having some truth. In this example above, the definitions are too general and value-based. For this article, I am going to use Wardle and Derakhshan‘s Venn diagram to define Fake News as an information disorder. Specifically, they breakdown information disorder into three parts.

Information Disorder – Fake News Definitions

Misinformation: spreading false information without the intent to spread harm. People spreading misinformation believe it to be true before sharing it with others.

Disinformation: People may spread information to cause harm or manipulate people. Disinformation describes actual lies that people tell for money, influence or to cause disorder.

Malinformation: Information that may be true but is spread with malicious intent or taken out of context. Examples include divulging private information or manipulating facts to fit a false narrative.

To further elaborate, back in 2017 Wardle announced that she rejected the phrase “fake news” as it was woefully inadequate to describe the issues. I agree. Furthermore, she now speaks of “information disorder” as a more encompassing term. Further, information disorder is further broken down as misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation as defined above. So for the sake of this article, I will continue to use the term “fake news” as it is now in common use (or misuse). However from my perspective,  “fake news” is the same as “information disorder” as defined by Wardle and Derakhshan above.

“Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? …”

John 18:38

The Role Of Technology In Spreading Fake News – Past, Present, And Future.

In the past, spreading false information was limited by the speed of communication methods such as print and word of mouth. Today, technology has made it easier than ever for fake news to spread rapidly and reach vast audiences. Further, social media platforms and messaging apps have fueled the proliferation of misinformation. In particular, these platforms provide an environment where sensational headlines draw more attention than accurate reporting. Indeed moving forward, emerging technologies like deepfakes pose a significant threat by making it even easier to produce realistic but falsified content.

For a historical timeline on the use of technology to spread fake news, see my article, Media Manipulation: The Role Of Technology Past, Present, And Future. Below is a summary fake news timeline.

Media Manipulation: The Role Of Technology Past, Present, And Future
  • In Days Of Old Before Mass Media.
  • 1439 – Printing Press And First Safeguards Against Media Manipulation.
  • 1890s – Yellow Journalism And The Rise Of Media Manipulation.
  • Twentieth Century Mass Media – TV & Radio, and The Global Village.
  • The Age Of Social Media – Audience Participation And Echo Chambers.
  • Emerging AI Technology, A Fantastical Media Manipulator.

Click here, for more details on how people and organizations have used technology to spread messages to manipulate the public since before mass media.

Why Is Fake News Bad – Here Is Why It Happens And Its Negative Impacts.

Fake news can occur for various reasons. Specifically, this including seeking financial gain through clickbait articles, pushing political agendas, inciting social divisions or unrest, discrediting opponents or adversaries, and manipulating public opinion on critical issues. Further, the negative impacts of fake news are diverse and far-reaching. Namely, this can include weakening democratic institutions by eroding public trust in media, destabilizing communities through fostering division and discrimination, endangering public health through misinformation about diseases or treatments, and potentially leading to violence or conflict. To detail, see below for examples of reasons fake news happens and its negative impacts.

Examples Of Why Fake News Happen.

  • To Sway You Politically. In the 2016 US Presidential election, a wide range of factions created and shared fake news stories on social media to influence voters’ opinions. Indeed, they did this to sway the election in favor of a particular candidate.
  • For Financial Gain. Some websites create and share fake news stories to generate clicks and ad revenue. Hence, these stories can often be misleading or outright false. Thus, this leads readers to make decisions based on inaccurate information.
  • For Social Or Psychological Gain. Some individuals may create and share fake news stories to gain attention or validation from their peers. As a result, this can lead to the spread of false information and potentially harmful consequences.
  • Just Unintentional Or For Fun. Sometimes, individuals may share fake news stories without realizing they are false or as a joke. While this may seem harmless, it can still contribute to the spread of misinformation and confusion.

Examples Of Negative Impacts Of Fake News.

  • Causes You To Make Faulty Decisions. Often authors of fake news can mislead using inaccurate stories, leading individuals to make decisions based on false information. For example, a fake news story about the safety of a particular medication could cause someone to stop taking it, potentially putting their health at risk.
  • Manipulates You. Influencers and advertisers can design fake news stories to manipulate individuals into believing a certain viewpoint or taking a particular action. For example, a fake news story about a political candidate could be created and shared to sway voters’ opinions in favor of another candidate.
  • Causes You Harm. In some cases, fake news stories can lead to physical harm or even death. For example, false information about the dangers of vaccines has led some individuals to avoid getting vaccinated, putting themselves and others at risk for preventable diseases.
  • You Lose Your Credibility Passing On Fake News. Sharing fake news stories can damage an individual’s credibility and reputation. To detail, once people discover that information that you shared was false, they may be less likely to trust your future statements or opinions.

Recognizing The Red Flags Of Fake News.

To protect ourselves from falling prey to fake news, it’s crucial to be aware of some common red flags. First, this can include sensational headlines that seem too good or shocking to be true. Second, articles that lack credible sources or expert opinions. Third, poor grammar and excessive errors in spelling or formatting. Forth, content that consistently favors one side of an argument or bias. Lastly, anecdotal evidence being presented as fact.

So, by staying vigilant while consuming information online, we can better discern between reliable sources and disinformation. To list, below are ways that you can spot fake news

Ways You Can Spot Fake News

  • Check The Credibility Of Author And Publication. Verify the author’s credentials and check if the publication is reputable.
  • Assess The Supporting Source / Source Not Cited.  Check if the article provides credible sources to support its claims or if it fails to cite any sources at all.
  • Assess The Supporting Source / Source Not Cited.  Check if the article provides credible sources to support its claims or if it fails to cite any sources at all.
  • Only One Source / Fool’s Gold.  Be wary of articles that rely on only one source or present themselves as the sole authority on a topic.
  • Check The Publication Date. Make sure to check when the article was published, as outdated information can be misleading.
  • Review The Comments Section. Read through the comments section to see if other readers have pointed out any inaccuracies or biases in the article.
  • Has Poor Grammar Or Spelling. Articles with numerous grammatical errors or spelling mistakes may not be trustworthy.
  • Look For Bias Or Strong Emotional Language. Be cautious of articles that use biased language or appeal to emotions rather than facts.
  • Uses Fake Social Media Accounts. Watch out for articles that use fake social media accounts to spread false information. 
  • Uses Bogus Web Addresses. Be wary of articles that use web addresses that are similar to reputable sources but with slight variations.
  • Look At Social Media Oversharing. Articles that are shared excessively on social media without credible sources may be unreliable.
  • Follow The Money. Investigate who funds the website or organization behind the article, as financial interests can influence content.
  • Is It A Joke? Satirical news websites can often be mistaken for real news, so make sure to double-check before sharing.
  • Sensational Headline Not Matching The Whole Story. Be cautious of articles with sensational headlines that do not match up with the actual content of the article.
  • Cross-Reference With Reputable Sources. Verify information by cross-referencing it with multiple reputable sources.

For more tips on spotting fake news, see Wikipedia’s Fake News and National Library Of Medicine’s Fake news: Why do we believe it?

Fighting Back Against Fake News – Tools, Media Literacy, And Responsibilities Of Promoting Truth.

Combating fake news requires a multi-pronged approach involving individuals, technology companies, government entities, and educational institutions. Further, critical thinking and media literacy skills are essential for individuals to effectively evaluate the credibility of news sources and distinguish between factual reporting and disinformation. For a detailed breakout of what can be done to minimize fake news, see my article, How To Combat Fake News. In this article, I’ll explain several things that journalists, media networks, governments, businesses, and educational institutions can do to minimize fake news.

How To Combat Fake News: What Happens When Journalists, Media, Authorities Act Right.

Prior to the internet, my perception was that there was a strong correlation between my trust of a news organization and its code of journalist’s ethics. As I was doing my research on the topic of fake news, it struck me that I do not have that same perception today about news sources. Indeed, I hear no mention of a code of ethics when it comes to news. This may be the reason we have so much fake news today. Now, I am beginning to think that if news sources just followed a code of journalist’s ethics, this is how to combat fake news. 

Click here for some tips that journalists, media networks, government, businesses and educational institutions can follow to combat fake news. Surprisingly, many of these tips are predicated on news sources having a code of ethics. Certainly, this is the way for us to trust news sources and the “news” that they generate.

Lastly, for more information in general on the nature of fake news, why it is bad, the role technology plays, and how best to minimize its negative effects, see  Wikipedia’s Fake News and  Council of Europe report on INFORMATION DISORDER: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policy making.

For more information from Unvarnished Facts on culture, click here.

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