Fake news: what they are and how to recognize them

December 07, 2017 0 Comments

The term "Fake news" refers to all those sources that "completely invent information, disseminate misleading content and exaggerate the true news".

Have there always been lies, what has changed now?

The manipulative use of information has gone through different modes, but today different things have changed compared to the past.

In the "networked journalism" scenario, anyone can access many sources of information and at the same time create information content with low costs and high distribution potential. These characteristics have contributed to a significant improvement in the quality of information. In this context, new spaces have also opened up for those pursuing different interests.

"Post-truth "is an expression that entered Oxford Dictionaries in 2016:" circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in orienting public opinion than appeals to emotionality and personal beliefs ".
In practice, our beliefs are not affected even when they are clearly contradicted by the facts, as some research confirms. The decision to introduce this term in the dictionary was dictated precisely by the consistent use made of it in the political sphere during 2016: first with the referendum on Brexit and then with the US elections.

It's also the case for those who want to take advantage of this opening to generate easy advertising profits: just create a website and know how to promote it on social media with captivating titles to earn thousands of dollars a month. But there are also those who produce "fake news" to influence the opinion of others for political purposes: in this case you can take advantage of the "bubble" effect that Facebook and other social networks produce when they make us see personalized content, although coming from a very few sources that confirm our prejudices and on which many users click without even wondering where they come from.

Finally, another fundamental new element compared to the past is the format in which they arrive: Facebook and Google News page the news in a homogeneous way, the same for both the New York Times and a junk science site. These formats tend to give more emphasis to individual content than to the source that produced it. And this element plays a lot in favour of sites that produce "fake news" for clickbaiting purposes.

Anyone can sometimes share untrue information. Not everyone, however, does so with the aim of deceiving those who read. And, above all, those who involuntarily produce false information tend to rectify and/or integrate it as soon as new elements emerge. The same does not apply to those who want to spread disinformation in a conscious way.

How can I find out if news is a fake news?
  1. Check the URL: we often don't notice it, but the site we are clicking on may be a copy of one of the most famous;
  2. Follow the links: to see if it actually takes you to the source that says to link or not; in general, it is better to be suspicious of articles that have few (or no) links;
  3. Read the "About Us" page: many sites that spread fake news often have a disclaimer in which they indicate that it is a satire site;
  4. Check statements: If they come from a known person, just select the phrase and launch a Google search in quotation marks. In this way it is possible to check whether the same words have also been taken up by other sources; otherwise, it is better to go into more detail.
What initiatives have been taken to curb the dissemination of false news?

Facebook has recently launched a news reporting service in the United States that has been questioned by a number of well-known fact-checking titles.

Google has instead decided to hit the headlines click-baiting manufacturers of false news, blocking their advertising on their domains. At the same time, educational fact-checking initiatives are taking place with the aim of spreading the culture of source verification in school and family contexts.

Dott. Carmelo Cutuli

Marketing & Communications specialist, Technical Writer & Journalist