Combating fake news

Columnist Peter Gatembu

Columnist Peter Gatembu

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg is sticking to his words after he stated a few months ago that Facebook is taking efforts in combating fake news. In it’s newest efforts, Facebook has made recognizable changes ahead of the French presidential election expected later this year.

The company has teamed up with major news organizations and for the first time in it’s history, will provide users with an option to report a potential story as false. For instance if a user alarms Facebook on a story, they will send the version to special portals manned by media experts. If marked inaccurate by at least two organizations, the story is marked with a ‘dispute tag,’ and its advertising revenue is removed.

Here in the United States, President Donald Trump uses Twitter as a tool to express his views on different issues.Trump , who has more than 20 million followers on Twitter, recently tweeted “Any negative polls are fake news, just like CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.” According to a Public Policy Polling study, 14 percent of Trump voters believe him, while 32 percent aren’t sure if he is lying or not. Another recent study by the Economist showed 62 percent of Trumps voters believe that millions of illegal votes were cast in the election as opposed to 25 percent of Clinton voters.

Fake news is a method of distorting the truth with stories that have no factual basis, but are presented as facts. Buzzfeed indicated in a study that people who cite Facebook as their major source of news are likely to view fake news headlines as accurate than those who rely less on the platform for news. Humor sites too can be easily taken advantage of, especially if they focus on current political events. Buzzfeed added in their study that conservative pages were more prone to sharing false misleading information than liberal pages.

    The wide spread of fake news impacts the way we interpret and respond to real news. Social media platform has made it easy to pass information quickly. According to a survey by Pew Research Center, most Americans suspect that made up news is having an impact. About two in three U.S. adults say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and event. This sense is shared widely across income, education levels, partisan affiliations and most other demographic characteristics.

The majority of Americans get their news on social media according to a Stanford study. As social platform users, we can help stop the spreading of fake news. If you use social media, you are an influencer within your own social network of friends. Only share stories that have credible sources. Checking the source of your story against other sources is another good way to certify that you are not reading fake news. If the Press Democrat, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times or Washington Post have not posted about a precise subject, chances are the story has not been verified. Some websites like Snopes and factchecker.org can help in the verification of stories that post as news. Other sources like Fake News Watch have compiled a list of websites that have been known to be untruthful.