With many individuals relying on the internet for daily news, fake news continues to be circulated on search engines, leading widely inaccurate stories to be virally shared worldwide.
Before dwelling on the dangers of circulating fake news, it is equally as important to define it. Regardless of the subjectivity of what counts as fake news, most people can agree that it refers to deceptive news articles, often propaganda, for the benefit of some third party. With the 2016 US Election, fake news has evolved to influencing the decisions of voters, to the aftermath of the election to leading powerful individuals such as Donald Trump himself calling news publications such as NYTimes and CNN inauthentic.
So, the question is: What are the dangers of fake news and why is it so important to be able to tell the difference between real and fake?
Google has been a search engine that has recently been taking measures to remove and warn users of potentially fake articles; however, the complex algorithms make it quite a challenge to do so. For example, Google wanting to transition from being a source of links to being a source of answers has led to misleading results when asking the engine questions.
There was a time when if a user asked the engine, “How many Presidents have been a part of the Ku Klux Klan,” Google replies five irrespective of the lack of evidence to support that claim. As a result, it is important for users to make themselves aware of questionable claims online instead of falsely believing that everything they see online is valid and sound.
What Are The Hidden Dangers of Fake News?
According to a Buzzfeed News Analysis, just three months before the election, the top 20 fake news articles resulted in 87,110,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. In contrast, the top 20 genuine news articles generated only 7,367,000.
All of these fake articles had outrageous headlines that were meant to attract the greatest amount of engagement from users, as well as pretending to be legitimate to gain credibility — at least at first glance. This led to exponential engagement to millions of users through mindless sharing on social media such as Facebook.
The naivety of some individuals can inevitably affect their behavior and choose to brashly follow decisions that may very well not be in their best interests, such as not voting for Hillary because of an article stating that she supports ISIS.
Search engines and social media websites are also providing a platform for individuals to spread hate and blatantly incorrect information on sensitive topics, such as if the Holocaust actually happened.
Given the growing importance of the internet in today’s day and age, virtually anybody has access to this information, including young children who cannot yet tell the difference from real and fake. This is incredibly damaging and may influence the way they think in a negative manner.
This is why it is becoming increasingly important for schools to teach individuals from a young age critical thinking skills and the ability to judge real from fake.
Given the prevalence of the media in our daily lives, the rise of fake news can hinder our ability to trust our world and the events that are happening in it. When repeatedly being introduced to it, there is no longer a fine line between hoax and reality, making it incredibly difficult to tell the difference. This dangerous situation is why we must educate ourselves to be skeptical, because the truth is, fake news is here to stay whether we like it or not.