We must remain vigilant against online proliferation of fake news

Quinn Burke, Associate Views Editor

The 2010s are a post-truth era, one in which any information from anywhere can be put online with a chance that someone out there will believe it. This phenomenon is shown best by “fake news,” something that Trump and Sinclair Broadcasting have put on full blast this last week. In one incredibly ominous message mass-produced throughout the country, hosts said fake news was “extremely dangerous to a democracy.” Though this message is far from sincere and Sinclair Media Group has consistently broadcasted fraudulent information, one must be aware of the pervasive effects of fake news.

According to a recent study from Stanford University, the vast majority of American students can no longer determine what is fake online and what is not. There are no signs to suggest older sections of the population have a better grasp on information. While our skills continue to diminish in determining fake news, internet content providers have continued to put out more and more fake news for a profit or to change minds.

And these content providers are damn good at getting the message out. An MIT study documented the sharing and exposure of fake news, saying “Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.”

At the same time, companies and online groups are creating more insidious and hateful posts with the intent to sway minds. Sites like Breitbart and InfoWars put out seemingly obvious fake news stories to millions of people.

While many are educated enough to avoid sites like that, because of fake news’ propensity to be shared and the sheer mass of content on the internet, it can be easy to fall victim to exaggerated or misconstrued stories. Though this content is irksome, free speech isn’t going anywhere soon, so it is important to stay on top of news articles.

To stay wary of fake news, ask yourself questions throughout the article. Figure out what you believe already, what the author or host site believes and what the owners or authors want you to believe. Use reputable sources as a fact-check on statistics or stories that seem outlandish.

When it comes to studies of any kind, check who funded and who owns the research group, as even scientists can have biases. Most importantly read the whole piece, making sure it isn’t some edgy headline just to draw people in. Navigating fake news can be difficult and is more prevalent than ever, but we also live in an age in which we can fight it more than ever. Stay vigilant and stay wary.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Quinn is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].

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