The Rise of Fake News

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As the journalism world shifts from print to online, the reliability of information has decreased, especially with the new phenomenon of “fake news.”  This past year, numerous sources reported that Ted Cruz’s father helped plan the murder of JFK, Democrats bussed in paid protestors for post election marches, and Hillary Clinton ran a covert child sex shop out of a pizza parlor. However, none of these stories were remotely true; they were created by individuals with a political or economic agenda and then spread via social media.  

President Trump is partially to blame for the fake news epidemic that is currently sweeping the nation.  When I asked senior Clarissa Latman what she thought of fake news, she replied, “Is it really fake news, or just news relying on our president’s “alternative facts?”. Trump actually started the rumors about Senator Cruz’s father, and he also claimed that the Crime rate in America is at an all time high, which is just blatantly false. In addition, when a Texas man tweeted a picture of coach busses in Austin with the caption, “Anti-Trump protesters in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in. #fakeprotests,” Trump took to Twitter to respond and call the situation “unfair”.  Nonetheless, the busses were in Austin for a conference of a Software company, which was totally unrelated to the protests.

While fake news is often created by politicians, it thrives because of people online looking to make a quick buck.  Craig Silverman of BuzzFeed News looked into Pro-Trump websites that had many articles shared on Facebook and discovered that many of them were run by Macedonians.  Surprised and curious, Silverman decided to interview some of these website owners. He found that these Macedonians, mostly in their teens or twenties, had selected fake news stories about Trump, posted them to their websites, and then repeatedly shared them in political Facebook groups to make sure people viewed them.  Eventually they got enough viewers that they made profit from ads on the websites.  Essentially, these people manipulated the American general public, without any regard for how it would impact the election, to make money.  

Since Facebook has been the main conductor for fake news, the social network is now working hard to prevent people from being tricked by misinformation. They hired the International Fact Checking Network to investigate articles that people mark as misleading or false.  First Draft News is also working with Facebook to see if an algorithm can be created to recognize fake news articles.  While these are steps in the right direction, the war against fake news is far from over.  Technology experts believe that in the near future, people will be able to fake a speech or a news broadcast by altering facial expressions in real time.  For now, it is crucial that we look to proven, reliable sources for our news and fact check everything.

 

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The Rise of Fake News