Fake news: The new minefield of the web

by | Jul 2, 2019 | 0 comments

It isn’t uncommon these days to read a headline about “Russian hackers posting fake news”, it is even President Trumps favourite new phrase. Fake news is the scourge of the web. The spread of misinformation carries any number of ramifications, to the point where it was even blamed for influencing the American presidential election.

Recently there has been a lot of attention on Facebook as one of the worlds largest distributors of fake news. The website has been trying to put measures in that can curb the spread of misinformation, but at the end of it, all the real responsibility is on the consumer. The adage “you can trust everything you read on the internet” will forever ring true.

The main issue surrounding this is that fake news articles are usually sensational in nature which aids on them being shared without much thought to the validity.

In on example, back in 2016, there was a news article that read: “Two arrested over 80,000 ballot papers already marked as ANC votes” this article was liked and shared 20,000 times on Facebook. With the traction that the article gained from this, it was brought into the gaze of the IEC who then censured the report.

This led to the IEC opening a case with SAPS for investigation and referral for persecution.

So how does one spot a fake news website?

 

In order to save yourself the embarrassment of sharing a fake article, it would serve you better to spend a bit of time authenticating the source of the article. This can be achieved in the following ways:

Is the website a member of IAB SA?

 

To start with, who is IAB SA?

IAB SA is [an] “independent, voluntary, non-profit association focused on growing and sustaining a vibrant and profitable digital industry within South Africa.” (IAB SA, 2019). Any reputable source of news will belong to this organisation.

You can check the members on the below links:

 

 Check on other reputable sites if the article is carried there

 

We all have news sites that we know are reputable and that we trust to give independent and impartial news, so if the news story is unbelievable check first if those other sites host them.

Some of our favourites include Mail & Guardian, TimesLive and of course News24

Another trap people often fall into is taking Satirical articles seriously, most satirical articles will be labelled as such. The problem with some fake news sites is that they will hide behind the disclaimer of being satirical to generate cheap and plentiful traffic to their site through Facebook.

Always make sure to pop over to the “About” page of a website to see if they are reputable or not.

One of the last steps one can take to stave off the embarrassment of sharing false information would be to check the comment section and to see what other people are saying, a lot of people may even point out the article is fake.

In conclusion, we live in a digital age, and manipulation and falsehoods are engrained with that. So be careful, take some time to make sure the information is true before you to join the misinformed masses. The fight against the vicious spread of misinformation starts with you. Trust us, it will be worth it.

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