Can you spot a fake news story?

How do you follow the news? Social media probably takes a front seat in bringing the world into your life, and you are not alone.

Facebook and other social media services are integral in our lives, and according to a 2016 survey, social media has become a source for the news we see and share, with more than 60 per cent of adults turning to social media for at least some of their news.

woman reading newspaper

news paper reading (flickr.com)

The end of traditional print media has been a news story in itself for more than a decade, but is social media really up to the challenge of keeping us informed in the digital age?

Thanks to widespread adoption of smart phones, we are endlessly connected. Receiving and sharing news through social media is both convenient and easy – you probably don’t check facts or consider your ethical responsibility before sharing news stories on social media. Did you share the Facebook privacy post or the false news of a celebrity’s death with your friends?

Getting caught sharing fake news stories is not limited to just your friends on Facebook. Traditional news organisations are under immense pressures to compete in the digital age, reducing their staff of journalists, and requiring those who remain to adapt to the online evolution of news reporting. Stories that originate on social media are often re-posted by traditional news outlets without checking the facts, sometimes with embarrassing consequences.

Have you ever read a retraction or apology from a friend for polluting your social media stream with rubbish masquerading as news? Traditional journalists are guided by a code of ethics that hold them accountable for the stories they report, usually checking facts and sources before publishing a story.

smart phone screen with social media apps

instagram and other social media apps (flickr.com)

Although we may rely on social media for keeping us informed, we do not trust the accuracy of the information we receive through social media, according to the Pew Research Center. Only 34 per cent of adults surveyed had confidence in the information they received through social media, while credence in local news organisations remains above 80 per cent.

Three tips to determine if a news story is false:

  • Check the facts: both snopes and hoax-slayer are websites that track on-line hoaxes.
  • Ask yourself if it sounds believable; sometimes your gut is right.
  • Are reputable mainstream news sites reporting on the story?

Social media is not just about sharing stories that interest us; anyone can be thrust into the role of journalist when all it takes is reaching for your phone. With more than two billion smart phones in use around the world, when tragedy or the unexpected occurs, someone will be there with their phone to capture images and video, sharing the experience on social media. Social media has become the eyes of the world, with the potential to place all of us at the front lines of revolutions as they happen, but have we placed expediency above accuracy in our appetite for news?

Image links: feature image, image 2, image 3.

 

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