Nowadays, the use of social media is integrated as an daily activity for the majority of people in society. The popularity of such platforms, are in no doubt, increasing as social media has and reaches a wide range of audiences. While there are many different types of social media applications that have different functions, for example, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. these platforms do share the common feature as a form of communication and as a way for people to connect and re-connect with one another.
However, thanks to such social media platforms, it’s been evident that more and more people are obtaining and accessing news from it. In a general consensus, research conducted by the Pew Research Center had found out that approximately 62% of adults obtain news from social media. Furthermore, the research had broken down the statistics in greater detail by the different platforms. They discovered that two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) find out news on it, while about six out of ten (59%) Twitter users get news on the platform and whereas, seven out of ten Reddit users obtain news on Reddit itself (Gottfried & Shearer, 2016). The significance of this is that some stories may not be credible, and may turn out to be fake and false news. In which case, some people may not check if it has credible sources or is valid, before sharing it with the public.
The term “false news” has been recently been used too widely, thanks to the influence of the recent US presidential election. According to Elle Hunt from the Guardian, false news is defined as news that is made up entirely and that is manipulated and altered to the point that it appears like realistic and credible journalism. False news uses tactics to attract traffic and reach a bigger range of audiences. They use such tactics as clickbaits, eye-catching headlines and pop-ups (Hunt, 2016).
People who create false news may possiblly do it for the “…thrill of deception, or call their work satirical or in it for the money….” (Herman, 2016). The concept of false news is that the stories that are written, are mainly focused on fabrications and lies and are published with no valid and credible sources. Journalist, John Herman of the New York Times, stated that this can lead to these stories to be quickly posted on numerous sites, which can lead to the false news being shared by many.
False news can not only lead people to believe in something that is untrue, but in severe cases it can also bring harm to people. For example, the infamous Reddit Boston Bombing case. The days after the incident, many users on Reddit started sleuthing to find out who were the culprits behind the bombing. This led to millions of users to incorrectly accused Brown University student, Sunil Tripathi, as the perpetrator of the bombings. Unfortunately, due to these accusations, Tripathi found himself facing massive negative backlash, which eventually led to his suicide (Stanglin, 2013).
Once it was brought to light that Tripathi was indeed, innocent, many news outlets and Reddit in general, had issued an apology to Tripathi’s family. The general manager of Reddit, Erik Martin, ensured during that time, Reddit and other social media platforms, would be more cautious and make sure that any false accusations and news would not lead to such a crisis.
Due to the recent US election, false news have become more prominent. Months ago, Facebook had featured a false story about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, on it’s trending topics. The story had falsely claimed that the channel had fired Kelly, for being “…a closet liberal who wants Hilary to win.” (Gunaranta, 2016). This had led to many journalists taking screenshots of such false news, and reporting it to Facebook, in which the platform had ensure they would take better measures in removing such links.
In early 2017, Google and Facebook, have been taking steps to remove false news. Facebook had altered it’s Trending topics feature, to provide more reliable news articles. Despite the efforts of fighting false news, the fight against it, is still a work in progress.
Gottfried, J., & Shearer, E. (2016). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/
Gunaranta, S. (2016). Facebook apologizes for promoting false story on Megyn Kelly in #Trending. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/facebooks-trending-fail-news-section-reportedly-highlights-fake-news-on-megyn-kelly/
Herman, J. (2016). Fixation of Fake News Overshadows Waning Trust in Real Reporting. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/19/business/media/exposing-fake-news-eroding-trust-in-real-reporting.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
Hunt, E. (2016). What is fake news? How to spot it and what you can do to stop it. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/dec/18/what-is-fake-news-pizzagate
Stanglin, D. (2013). Student wrongly tied to Boston Bombings found dead. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2013/04/25/boston-bombing-social-media-student-brown-university-reddit/2112309/
Wakabayashi, D. (2017). In Race Against Fake News, Google and Facebook Stroll to the Starting Line. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/technology/google-facebook-fake-news.html