Fake news in light of the UK's general election and how to spot it!
In the run up to the UK’s general election, fake news is back on the agenda. Actually, post the US election, it never left the agenda! Digital falsities arguably led Americans to ‘click and elect’ Trump, however, nobody is immune to its adverse effects. On BBC’s The One Show this week, Theresa May said she had been an early victim of fake news, as it was revealed a newspaper wrongly claimed she had a new baby in the past. The PM said that when she was trying to become an MP, she faced claims that such news would cause her ’trouble’ on being selected as a Tory candidate.
For some of us it’s a bit of a laugh, for others it’s a money making scheme and for platforms like Facebook, well it’s simply a headache. They are facing fresh political pressure in light of June's general election, with the UK and its politicians also firmly in the spotlight. The Silicon Valley giant is using adverts in several British national newspapers, advising the average Joe on how to spot fake news. As the Spiderman franchise will tell you, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ and no matter how much Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook’s COO) says Zuckerberg’s baby is not a publisher, but purely a platform, they still have a duty to reduce the diffusion of misleading content.
Here are 5 tips from Full Fact and Facebook to help you stop believing stories that Beyonce is actually Obama’s 3rd daughter…
1. Consider the photos and videos- Many fake news stories sometimes use manipulated images or videos. The photo may be authentic in itself, however, simply taken out of context.
2. Have a look at the dates - Misleading content often has timelines which make zero sense, or use altered dates of official events in the past. This is often the quickest way to spot fake news!
3. Unusual formatting - Probably the most obvious of tip, yet one which most of us overlook. Fake news articles don’t have the luxury of an editing team backed by a powerhouse newswire, so often the quality will be visibly poor. Misspellings, awkward layouts and poor grammar (guilty) should all raise eyebrows for a potentially misleading story.
4. Look at alternative reports - If there is no other reputable news source reporting the same story, it can often mean that the story is purely fabricated. Even within the existing report, if the publisher is using unorthodox mediums to post their content or have a history of producing inaccurate content…think again.
5. Check the URL - Even your nan sitting at home on the sofa can purchase a domain name and often they can mirror existing websites. So don’t forget to use your fine-tooth comb.
Click here for the complete guide from Full Fact.
In order to test your new set of skills, take a look at the below list of US-centric popular fake news websites as compiled by Fake News Watch:
§ The Onion (Satire)
§ American News (Fake/hoax)
§ The Borowitz Report (Satire)
§ Natural News (Clickbait)
§ Disclose TV (Clickbait)
§ World Truth TV (Clickbait)
§ InfoWars (Clickbait)
§ Clickhole (Satire)
The question is, how do these fake news websites even make money? Surely they can't be sustainable in the long-run? A classic piece of fake news in the run up to the US election was a story claiming Pope Francis had endorsed Trump. A piece of content like this is bound to generate thousands of click-throughs and shares. Often we see such content plastered with ads on the side panel - each click of an ad featured on a fake news website generates money for their dodgy creator. The publishers that runs these adds also get a teeny tiny fee per click, however, If a fake news story blows up and suddenly millions of people are reading the article whilst simultaneously clicking on the ad, well, its a payday all around. Unfortunately, it can be a lucrative business for those willing to master the dark art.
Adam Mosseri of Facebook said the platform are focusing on 3 areas around this not so new phenomenon of fake news - trying to prevent the creators of misleading content from making cash, building products to prevent the spread of false news and finally helping people make more informed decisions. This latter problem is extremely tough given the amount of overwhelming content we are bombarded with on a daily basis. For UK voters in June, this latter issue is the crux of our ballet box dilemma - how can we make educated choices if we continually question the reliability of the information at our disposal? As described by Damian Collins, a Conservative MP, misleading content threatens 'the integrity of democracy in Britain’. Guys like Facebook and Google are taking serious action to battle fake news, however, there is one thing they can’t prevent - the fictitious stories and false promises created by political parties on how they plan to sail through the muddy water of Brexit and beyond.
Don't forget to vote!! Your decision at the ballot box matters!