How students can spot fake news on social media
Just as a news agency can have a certain “swing”, so will their respective social media … [+]
There is no denying that the country is as divided as ever – and parties on both sides of the political spectrum continue to present their side of history. On social media, this has “raised the volume”, but has made it especially difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.
For students today, this can be particularly worrying because so much fake news is portrayed as real – and as misinformation, disinformation, and even open propaganda continues to spread, it can certainly distort the worldview.
Coupled with “deepfakes” videos and other manipulated image and audio files, the truth is suddenly no longer so easy to recognize.
A new resource from the University of North Dakota’s online Masters in Science in Cyber Security has tips on what students can do to look for telltale signs of “fake news.” An outlet gives it a radically different spin than the rest. Another way to spot fake news on social media is through “sensational headlines,” while photos are often taken out of context.
The latter has become a tool used by extremists both far right and far left, as a very real subject and eye-catching caption can completely transform the narrative.
The resource also emphasized and impressed the need to ensure that satire is not confused with news, while everyone should consider their own prejudices, opinions, and especially political views when reading a story. It is not always easy to agree with every message, and many “facts” today can be a matter of perspective.
In addition, it is also important to note that even reputable news organizations can be biased and make mistakes. The editorial offices are unfortunately smaller these days and the fact checkers are overloaded. Reporters and editors are human, and even the best of the group tend to make mistakes from time to time.
Here’s what some other experts have to say when it comes to making sure the younger generation stays tuned to deciphering fake news from facts on social media:
“First of all, students should know that their Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Apple News offer them a custom bulletin board that supports the students’ current views,” said Dr. Dustin York, Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Communication at Maryville University.
“If you search for pro-protester news and click on it, your future messages will become pro-protester,” said York. “If you find anti-protest news and click on it, your future news will be anti-protest news, even if it means articles from unreliable websites. Remember, social media makes money from advertising; there is no financial obligation to share the truth. Some sites like Twitter have started censoring misinformation. “
Consider a bias towards friends
Even best friends will not always agree on every topic – nor should regular listeners / viewers of political experts agree with everything the talking heads have to say. Too often, however, younger people feel that something shared by a friend or relative must be the truth.
“If you believed something just because a friend told you to believe it, you probably wouldn’t,” said Dr. Amy Taylor-Bianco, program director of the online Masters of Science in Management program at Ohio University.
“Just because someone said it or you read it doesn’t mean it’s true,” added Taylor-Bianco. “Nor does it mean that someone or something was trying to be misleading. It is your job to gather information from multiple sources, not someone else’s job. You have to do the hard work gathering information, thinking, and making your own decisions. “
She suggested, “Look; look at multiple sources – more than three, with different browsers and formats. Look for opposing viewpoints and develop your own opinion. “
Various news outlets on social
Just as a news agency can have a certain “severity”, so will their respective social media feeds. And this can include who these outlets are using as sources. Just because someone is quoted repeatedly does not necessarily mean that the person is particularly qualified on a particular topic.
“Always be skeptical and check the source of an article,” said York. “Who is the ‘X’ media citing? Is it a blog that interviewed 10 people, or is it from a reputable source like the Pew Research Center? Take the extra step.”
When it comes to social, it is important not to read from just one side of the aisle – because opposing views should fill the whole picture.
“Make a list on Twitter of news outlets leaning in all directions,” added York. “Track a Fox News account for each Young Turks account and actually read from both. Then check the topic for yourself. What are other media and studies saying?”
The pandemic and the bias
These are tough times, in part due to economic concerns and because the country has been in a state of lockdown and quarantine for nearly three months. That’s enough to drive some people crazy, but it has also resulted in people spending more time in front of their screens – which has increased the flow of misinformation.
This is especially true for social media.
“The tensions surrounding the pandemic, geopolitical rivalries, reactions to a president and a government that lie all the time and label all enemies of his agenda as providers of fake news, marginalized political groups who pose as groups they reject discrediting them or promoting deeper social tensions are all part of a mature environment for misleading and false claims and articles posted on social media, “said David Jacobson, JD, professor of practice, MBAs and online MBAs on global business strategy teaches at the Cox School of Business at SMU in Dallas.
“The need to identify false narratives and articles is now so profound that governments in the EU are requiring platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to identify posts that are dishonest or intended to convey misleading and social distrust or tension, and which Identify source, “he added.
Add to this the fact that foreign actors are using misinformation and even disinformation campaigns to wreak havoc in the United States. Such efforts are far cheaper than military spending, require less technical skill than a cyber attack, and yet do just as much – if not more – damage by dividing the population.
“China, Russia and Iran, among others, are all active with similar goals and strategies in the US and Europe,” warned Jacobson. “Very often the state-sponsored activities are accompanied by the involvement of actors in order to” prove “their social media strategy as true and to generate further social media activities. This was seen across from the White House when peaceful demonstrations suddenly turned violent and Asia became international. ”Journalists from Chinese-speaking countries (not China) covered the demonstrations and recorded the sudden violence and found it to be from the PR state China-sponsored acts of violence and provocation had recorded in the PRC with a Mandarin accent. “
So what is the answer when you come into contact with news like this on social media?
“Check your own bias first,” recommended Jacobson.
“We often distrust the work of those we disagree with too much and trust the posts that agree with us too much,” he said. “An example is the recent post from Hitler outside a church holding a Bible, how Trump was captured with a Bible outside the church in DC The Hitler Post was a fake but relatives of mine who distrust Trump and his motives , Shared this post in the family, and Such fake posts undermine the value of the discussion and issues raised. “
Second, Jacobson has to check some facts – starting with sites like snopes.com and factcher.org.
While it is an unfortunate part of today’s media that we all have to be suspicious of what is being presented, misinformation and disinformation spreads so quickly that facts should be checked early and often!
“An additional step is to require platforms to identify and tag counterfeit posts and their source as required in Europe,” said Jacobson. “There are some innocuous fake posts that are posted out of urgency or concern that are not fully factual, and there are the more insidious posts that are designed to harm our communities and our nation and make them part of an enemy’s agenda state actor or a well organized and financed subversive group. Both are dangerous, but the latter has the resources to devastate our society even more. “
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