We live in a digital age where information is passed around even faster than the speed of lightning. With social media dominating the web, you can very well read stories and see photos and videos of events happening in various parts of the world in real time without knowing how credible its sources are. Politics is often targeted by fake news that usually leaves the public confused because they can no longer tell what is real and what is not. Technology is a big factor why fake news is able to spread like wildfire. Anybody can post anything they want on social media or on certain sites that people can easily see and quickly shared with others.
Politicians have also benefited from these false stories especially when it discredits the credibility of their rivals. Perhaps it also explains the unprecedented win of President Donald Trump in last year’s election. Other times, it can help dictate the direction a certain nation is going. Take Brexit, for instance. The people’s opinion was greatly influenced by the intentional spreading of fake news before and during the time of voting. So you see, we can’t just turn a blind eye to this public nuisance anymore because of its large-scale implications that can make or break nations, actually.
How can we fight back against the fake news infecting our information feeds and political systems? New research suggests that education and filtering technology might not be enough: The very nature of social media networks could be making us peculiarly vulnerable.
The intentional spreading of false stories has been credited with swaying such monumental events as last year’s Brexit vote in Britain and the U.S. presidential election. Tech firms such as Alphabet Inc. unit Google and Facebook Inc. have been trying to find ways to weed it out, or at least help users spot it. Some say we need to start earlier, educating children on how to think critically.
But understanding the unique epidemiology of fake news may be no less important. Unlike a typical virus, purveyors of falsehood don’t have to infect people at random. Thanks to the wealth of information available on social media and the advent of targeted advertising, they can go straight for the most susceptible and valuable victims — those most likely to spread the infection.
Many people use social media today and in the course of our use, we share personal information through the details we disclose on our accounts, posts we like, share and comment on, surveys we take, etc. We are practically the products being sold by SNS platforms to third-party advertisers. This information, when it goes into the wrong hands, allows the perpetrators of fake news to publish targeted posts to a specific niche or group of people for them to realize their goals whatever they may be. Hence, it’s also the reason why we can’t just easily put an end to fake news because it thrives in social media, a platform the majority of us can’t live without right now.
The White House’s social media director tweeted fake news about Hurricane Irma Sunday.
Dan Scavino shared a short video showing flooding at an airport he said was of Miami International Airport.
“Sharing #HurricaneIrma on social media with President @realDonaldTrump & @VP Pence hourly. Here is Miami International Airport. STAY SAFE!!” he wrote.
But that wasn’t Miami International Airport.
Even public officials are fooled by fake news. This is especially common during natural calamities and disasters when news is flooding in and everyone is glued to the latest updates that many gullibly share or retweet posts without verifying their legitimacy or credibility first. Since we are undeniably in the midst of the fake news era, what we can do to somehow lessen its damage, prevent them from trending, or protect you and your family from any problems arising from such posts is to refrain from sharing whatever you see on your newsfeed. Sometimes, you just have to bite back your (virtual) tongue and stop flaming the fire that is fake news – the new favorite of cyber criminals aside from the spreading ransomware attacks.