Communication and Rhetoric

Will fake news ever be gone completely?

Fake News Pic 2
Graphic by Hannah Onder

Fake news has been in the public eye since the 2016 election. “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,” “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead of Apparent Murder-Suicide,” “Rush Reveals Michelle’s Perverted Past After She Dumps on Trump,” are just some of the clickbaits that were circulated through Facebook and Twitter, shared thousands of times, and possibly influenced god knows how many people. The spread of fake news is dangerous because it can hard to differentiate it from real news, and even more dangerous on social media because it can be even harder to find the original source of information. According to David Pogue‘s “How to Stamp Out Fake News”, fake news will never be completely gone.

Pogue says there were three issues with the 2016 election and social media, specifically Facebook.

  • Ad revenue from clickbait
  • Echo chambers of the same opinions
  • Lack of skepticism with online information

I agree that these issues are major problems. Bad regulation of news by social media sites can be dangerous, because they are becoming the main source of information for adults. According to Pogue’s article, 44 percent of U.S. adults receive their information from Facebook, so it’s important to raise the regulation to a level that newspapers, TV, and other preceding news sources where held to. It’s also critical that people are attentive of the credibility of there news sources with the increase of news production.

Pogue later explores how these three issues with the spread of fake news are being handled to prevent the scenario of fake news influencing election results. In the time of Pogue article, he brings up how the CEO of Facebook Mike Zuckerberg dismisses the issue of fake news spread on Facebook influencing the 2016 election. Although at the time of this blog post, Zuckerberg has acknowledged this issue and has provided evidence that his investigation team uncovered. Zuckerberg is now working to continue the work he started with improving Facebook’s ability to detect fake news, when the issues first came up that Pogue discussed in his article.

Eliminating the clickbait

According to Pogue, a lot of the fake news sites were created by Macedonian teenagers looking to gain revenue through advertisements by creating click-worthy fake news headlines like the examples referenced above. Pogue also provided the static that the top-twenty fake news stories received more clicks than the top-twenty actual news stories. This was a huge problem that was discouraged the minute fake news became headlines, since Google and Facebook immediately stopped accepting advertising relationships with fake news sites. With the revenue gone, the money motivator is no longer a promotional issue with the obvious fake news, the issue is now identifying gossip from slivers of truth.

Improving the algorithm

Pogue also brings up the issue of how Facebook should regulate its fake news. There’s the obvious idea of Facebook improving it’s algorithm, but another prosed idea was community regulation. Pogue disproves of this issue, because for every person that marks something as fake another side exists that believes it to true. He then points out the bigger issue of social media promoting echo chambers of the same opinion, which is much worse then seeing the occasional fake news story. This is because people friending and follow like minded people prevents them form viewing the other sides viewpoints. When people don’t see other sides of a story they can be moved to extreme action. Therefore Pogue believes it would be best to let the algorithm continue to be improved to mark fake news. I also agree, because I don’t believe people to be unbiased enough to flag solely fake news otherwise they won’t be human.

Increasing people’s skepticism

Pogue’s biggest point was people need to be more skeptical of information found online and on social media. The lack of skepticism made people more susceptible to false information spread through social during the 2016 election. Pogue believes because people have now lived through an election mixed with fake news people will become more critical of information in general for future elections. I agree because people typically learn from their experiences and become stronger for it.

Pogue says fake news will never disappear, but he believes people will become better at identifying it over time. I agree that fake news will never truly disappear, because it’s never not been a thing. Social media just brought the conspiracy theories to a whole new level with fake news, due to the increased ease of spreading information. However, now that 2016 election has brought fake news on social media to forefront of people’s attention, people will be more aware of the issue in the future.

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