Imagine this: you wake up at 5 in the morning and you’ve noticed the howling winds and the never-ending downpour outside your window. Doesn’t it sound like a like less-than-ideal condition for commuting to school, right? Yet you still hear nothing about class suspensions on TV.
Then you start scrolling down your News Feed when you notice a post announcing a class suspension. You quickly share it with your friends… only for another friend to tell you that the announcement was from last month.
Unfortunately, these misunderstandings happen frequently, and it’s not uncommon to find netizens retweeting altered photos or sharing old articles without checking the date. With misinformation and disinformation spreading in all facets of social media, it’s inevitable for anyone to be swayed by all of the posts that easily appear on Facebook.
After all, it only takes a second to hit that Like button. Everybody has the freedom to comment on whatever they want. And it’s definitely easy for anyone to hit that “Share” button.
And if you’re not well-versed in media literacy, you might become even more prone to fake news.
What is “fake news?”
Fake news is a form of exaggerated misinformation that is usually meant to trick readers into believing something that isn’t true. Sometimes, it’s even used to spread propaganda about a certain figure through malicious means.
Oftentimes, this involves spreading doubt on legitimate news sources. Have you ever found a piece of news about a certain person or an event from sources outside credible news pieces, only to learn that they’re not true?
Why do people post fake news?
In an era where social media revolves around Likes and Shares, it’s easy for people to feel validated by Likes and reactions.
But to folks who are familiar with data analytics, you’ll find that none of these Likes and reactions matter. More often than not, reactions are used by businesses, where engagement (such as your reactions, comments, and shares) is measured to promote an idea, person or a product.
What’s the difference between misinformation and disinformation?
It’s easy to mistake one for the other, but misinformation and disinformation mean two opposite things.
Misinformation means you’re sharing information that’s false, but you don’t know that it’s false. Remember those Walang Pasok posts that you see on Facebook? Or what if you accidentally shared an article about a person that didn’t turn out to be true?
When you’re contributing to disinformation, however, it means you’re sharing information that’s meant to mislead readers, and you’re completely aware that the information is a lie.
Fake news also appeals to emotions, and unless you know how to check your sources, there’s a higher chance for you to be a ripe target for misinformation.
So why exactly should you start verifying your sources?
Algorithms affect public opinion.
Do you think getting a hundred Likes on Facebook translates to real popularity? Not exactly – it only means you’ve activated one of Facebook’s algorithms. Sharing milestones such as graduations or weddings usually garner congratulatory greetings from your Facebook friends, which automatically puts your post at the top of people’s News Feeds. It’s a fun way for Facebook to celebrate your victory, too.
So if you’re thinking of making a business page about yourself or go as far as to quit your day job because you happen to have many friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook, trust us – your number of followers don’t matter as much as you think in the real world.
You might be manipulated.
If you’re not aware of the way algorithms work, your News Feed is also tailored to respond to what you search on the internet. For instance, if you love watching puppy videos on Facebook, you’ll start noticing dog-related ads pop up more often. Business pages that sell beauty products also target their audience this way by focusing on netizens that love make-up and skin care. And if you love a certain public figure, chances are you’ll find more news about that person popping up on your feed more often.
People deserve to know the truth.
With disinformation spreading all over social media, the chances of watching people getting fooled by exaggerated claims become higher. If you do care about your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, start by correcting their claims and explaining what’s really happening. Best to share a link to a verified source as well.
You get to expand your perspectives.
The more you start learning about a certain situation or a person, the more it increases your knowledge, which makes it more likely for you to see both sides of the story. After all, social media is a treasure trove that feeds on one’s cognitive bias (which involves one’s judgment process based on its personal preference, regardless of any given proof), and no content that you see covers both sides of a story.
It protects and respects people’s intellectual property.
How would you feel if you’ve spent hours sketching a perfect drawing and posted it on social media, which got a lot of Likes and Shares… only to learn that another person reposted your work without telling you? The internet is a public space that frequently shares content for views, oftentimes without the creator’s permission, so asserting your right as a creator not only protects your work, but also lets other netizens know who the more credible source is.
Misinformation doesn’t become a norm.
In a world where anybody can easily craft their side of a story and claim its accuracy through social media, it’s inevitable for people to clash after misunderstanding information. So the only way for the cycle of disinformation to end is to stay informed and have a healthy perspective involving both sides of a story.
You don’t have to be a journalist to verify facts, either! As public citizens, it is still within your responsibility to correct misinformed people. After all, the only way to avoid being a victim of disinformation is to start fact-checking, and you can easily get a head-start on that by doing any of the following:
Check your sources.
You’ve probably used Google as part of your research in school, right? If you’ve done that in the past, you can easily spot inaccuracies and verify any false information on your own! Putting the topic and the title of an article is enough for you to see if the information you’ve read is accurate or not. Best to check if the website comes from a credible news source or a site that’s known for giving out accurate troves of information.
Look out for the date.
A lot of articles tend to be shared online without readers taking note of the date and year that the information was posted. Some netizens who aim to mislead people even go so far as to backdate their Facebook posts for different reasons – again, it’s possible for people to share old “Walang pasok!” posts and reset the date!
Know the author.
When in doubt, read up on the author of a post on Google. If the author’s background is plastered online and has written substantial documents on credible websites before, chances are that person is worth trusting. But if you can barely find information on that person, keep an open mind and be careful about citing that person as a source.
Ultimately, if you accidentally shared something – or you’ve seen something online that isn’t true – don’t be passive about it! Be an outlier. Make a difference.
Do you feel the urge to fight against misinformation? Has the journalism bug bitten you yet? Check out more schools that offer mass communication courses at Edukasyon.ph!