Fake News and Context Clues
The rise of fake news during this year’s election has lead us to ask ourselves some difficult questions: Will learning new information cause me to change my opinion of any given subject? Am I able to tell the difference between and published piece that is based in facts, or do I fall for the click-bait? Advertisers much like myself also find themselves asking if the organizations we work for should profit from taking advantage of others. Facebook itself has been divided on the issue, with many employees feeling like they didn’t do enough to stop this in its tracks. Google also dealt with fake news around the election. On the other side of this is censorship, and all the time intensive labor that goes into that. When you look back at history though, you’ll see that fake news is nothing new.
I remember when I was in my English classes in 6th – 8th grade and learning about Context Clues. You remember context clues right? Those words out of a sentence that you understand around those words that you don’t understand? Context clues were essential in taking standardized tests, like the SATS or GMAT (GRE for non business). Understanding linguistics, how a sentence is worded, can be just as useful (especially when reading headlines 140 characters or less). Unfortunately it seems like many of us have forgotten about context clues and how to use them. So often we fall for sensationalized headlines (You Won’t Believe What Kanye Did!) and are too eager to share the news that we don’t consider the source. And let’s face it: A good amount of people don’t want to spend the time researching on their own to see if something is true or not (See PizzaGate, and all the nonsense going on there).
Technology isn’t to blame. We can’t blame the spread of fake news on the distribution system, nor can we stop it. We can however, hit them where it hurts: Their wallet. Google and Facebook have both recently launched new initiatives to curb fake news. The initiatives are centered around preventing fake news publishers to run ads on their websites, which makes up a majority of their revenue. Without that revenue, these networks will be forced downside and hopefully disappear entirely.
Cutting off these publishers cash flow won’t be enough, though. After all, it only costs a few dollars to run a Facebook ad, but it takes thousands of users to share it for it to spread. It comes down to us spending 5 minutes (really, 5 minutes) on Google researching a topic. Check out other sources to corroborate, maybe ask a friend. We won’t always be able to find the right answer, but hopefully we’ll be smart enough to change our opinions based on new information.