What Drives Fake News?

What Drives Fake News?

There is both a short and a long answer to the question of what exactly drives fake news. The short answer is “money”.

What is fake news?

Most of you already know the answer, but here is Wikipedia’s definition for the record:

Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.

If it’s on the internet it must be true.

Anyone can own and create a website. There is no monitor or filter for content that can and is published onto the web. This is not a bad thing either. Can you imagine if the internet became yet another thing that that was overly monitored and controlled? As it stands, the internet represents, for the larger part, the present worldwide beacon of free speech and thought.

The Allen Ruins Everything clip below goes into more detail about why web neutrality matters. The petition is closed, but the message is still sound.

If anyone can publish anything on the web, it just means that we all need to learn to take the good with the bad and become a little more savvy with what we believe.

Nothing drives traffic to a site like sensationalism

Who wouldn’t want to read about “NASA confirms existence of Earth’s second moon” or “Morgan Freeman found dead”? The more exciting the story, the more traffic the story drives to their website. Fake news enthusiasts don’t care about the veracity of their claims, for them it’s all about the numbers.

The long answer to what drives fake news?

Fake news is driven by a wicked combination of money, sensationalism and unscrupulous people.

You can subscribe to ad programmes which will place ads onto your website for money. The more people visiting your site, the more money you make.

The wilder your story, the more likely your story will become viral.

How to spot fake news?

 

Check the Domain Name

I think a good place to start is by checking the URL / domain name. If it’s not an instantly recognisable name then you might want to do a bit of research before eagerly hitting that share button on your Facebook feed.

If a story originates on a site ending in “.ru” or “.co”, that’s usually a fake news alert. “.Ru” is used by the Russian federation, while “.co” is used by Colombia. These two extensions are considered dubious at the best of times.

Some sources are known for reporting unreliable news. Be sure to watch out for articles published in the Daily Mail, The Stately Harold and The Sun which are known for their disregard of facts and phenomenalist posts.

Know the difference between a blog and a website

This has become a bit tricker over the years with blogs often masquerading as official news sites.

Blogs are opinion pieces which are well researched and cleverly packaged for interest and thought provoking web content. These types of sites will consist of one or a few updating and writing these opinion pieces.

Official news sites have fact checkers and professional copywriters reporting on stories objectively. News sites will use words like “alleged” and “the accused” in order to remain impartial.

Spell Check

Fake news websites are often rife with spelling and grammatical errors. Their one-man-band doesn’t often come standard with a proof reader.

Ask this question and do a fact check

Ask yourself, would this kind of story not be important enough to be featured on official sites like NASA or CNN’s if it were true? So check to see if these sites feature similar stories.

Snopes.com is always a great place to do a fact check.

 

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