The growing phenomenon of fake news can bring forth disastrous consequences.
When it comes to the circulation of fake news, social media platforms are the clear winner. We have all been there. In the quest for reliable information, many of us have fallen into the trap of misinformation or fake news.
The internet and social media platforms have fueled misinformation, but the problem has persisted in the market for many years. There was a time when tabloid newspapers promoted sensational and widely exaggerated stories to grab eyeballs and drive revenue. Today, the phenomenon of fake news has shifted its base from the print media to social media.
Although social media platforms have been battling against misinformation, people continue to struggle to evaluate the reliability of online news sources. There are several instances where people have fallen into the fake news trap on social media platforms. Let’s take a look at some of the popular ones.
As the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic, social media platforms have become a hub of misinformation related to the virus. As a result, platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, had to remove a combination of 18 million posts for violating the Covid-19 misinformation policy. The action came after Facebook faced a backlash for spreading fake news about vaccines, masks and other Covid-19 safety precautions.
2016 U.S. presidential elections
When it comes to finding breaking news, Twitter is the first place that comes to our attention. The social media giant faced criticism for its role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A study conducted by researchers from Oxford University states that Twitter was filled with polarizing and conspiratorial content during the 2016 presidential election. The content included links from Russia, WikiLeaks and junk news sources. The content used misleading information to influence the reader’s understanding of public issues.
Climate change is a serious issue on a global scale. Even business leaders have stepped forward to address the issue by promoting green energy options. However, one thing that is ruining the whole movement is climate change misinformation on social media.
According to research by the non-profit organization Avaaz, in U.S. President Biden’s first 60 days in office, climate change misinformation on Facebook amassed about 25 million views. The research further suggested that the social media platform is not prepared to tackle the growing problem of climate misinformation.
Much has been written lately about the impact of 5G technology. False claims were floating on social media platforms linking the 5G technology to the coronavirus outbreak.
In April 2020, the social media giant blocked two anti-5G groups after its members incited attacks on mobile phone masts. The two groups supported the destruction of 5G telecommunications, as various conspiracy theories linked various health problems to the rollout of 5G internet technology.
The fake news phenomenon
Any misleading information presented as news is fake news. Social media is considered the main source of fake news because information can spread on it at an unprecedented pace. Fake news on social media platforms can cloud users’ judgment and deceive them for political or economic motives.
According to a study, real news travels six times slower than fake news on Twitter. Conducted by a team led by Sinan Aral of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the study says, “Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends or financial information.”
It might come as a surprise, but bots are not the real culprit for spreading fake news, as per the study. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots have accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate. The fact that false news spreads faster than the truth has to do with humans, who tend to share fake news that sounds surprising and novel, the study added.
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