Extra Extra: Lie all about it!
Fake news stories seems to be the latest trend in our ever growing social media market. But what is it about them that not only encourages people to write them…but believe these outrageous stories without fact checking?
The moment Brian Williams was exposed for making up a story about being involved in enemy fire while reporting in Iraq, was a monumental one. Everyone knew within a day, Williams was taken off the anchor desk, and memes (since that’s the way this generation communicates) are still being made about it years later. What baffles me about this however, is we talk about this event, bring it up on social media, on news outlets etc….and yet WE ARE STILL BUYING INTO FAKE NEWS!
The issue with many of these fake news articles is that a lot of them are coming from real organizations now, with experience, well written and well read journalists; twisting lies into an intriguing story. It was pointed out to me that the site Breitbart, has a White House Correspondent; despite having produced multiple faux and misleading news stories. (This is one of the first things that pop up when you google ‘Breitbart news’. “Published a number of falsehoods and conspiracy theories, as well as intentionally misleading stories”.
I decided to read one of these stories, one that I knew nothing about, to see if I could figure out if it was a true story or just well written fake news.
I have never heard anything about this topic before; however I began reading it with an open mind. It basically states that a Swedish professional has released a statistic stating that the number of Swedish children reporting to have been born with the wrong gender has increased by 100%. While, I am a big fan of people being themselves, and ultimately doing whatever makes them happy…a 100% increase seemed a little impossible to me.
However, in the article; there was a link to the source they got their information from, so I decided to clink on it to see if their facts are accurate.
…..And of course their source is all in Swedish. I get that it’s a story based in Sweden from an obviously, Swedish source; yet I still couldn’t help but feel like something was being covered up.
I turned to one of my close friends who was born and raised in Sweden and asked her to read the article and translate it for me. What surprised me the most was before I sent her the link for the Swedish article, I just had her read the American version first. She told me that if it was American it must be fake news, however when she read the Swedish source…she told me it had to be true because it was coming from one of the biggest, most reliable sources in Sweden. It was a sharp contrast between how she would believe her news wholeheartedly, whereas she and myself was questioning an American made news organization. (I also Translated it using Google Translate as seen here)
Still not entirely convinced, I began Googling this statistic and found nothing at first: Just the same article from Breitbart News.
However, the next day I tried Googling it again but using different phrases and found this:
I still can not decide if these statistics are fake, but if it is fake it is alarming to see two news sources already writing almost the exact same article just one day later. I think fake news is something some people see as funny but don’t realize how detrimental it can be. If it turns out that ^^this story is in fact made up; then all of Breitbart News’ online followers will believe what they already read, and this news organization has a solid following.
742 comments on just this one, recently published story that only a total of 4 websites are claiming is true (one isn’t in English so unless readers are bilingual they don’t know if that’s exactly what the article is saying or if that’s what Brietbart news wants it to say).
I think the rise in fake news is the constant need to be right and the constant need for one’s opinions to be validated. If I wanted to say brown cows produce chocolate milk and I found an article quoting some unknown scientist saying it’s theoretically possible, I therefore can continue believing that.
The role of a journalist is to educate and inform the public, yet now it’s become a toss up between being a popularity contest and who can prove how dumb the average citizen is now by tricking them into believing something that isn’t actually true.
My friend’s comment on how untrustworthy American news sources are but that she could believe Sweden’s without a doubt; really opened my eyes. We need to inform journalists and people on what fake news looks like, how to spot it and why its damaging to produce content that isn’t accurate. Journalists also have to stay away from any blurred or gray lines; there have recently been fingers pointing at various news outlets accusing them of making up quotes to better their story. It doesn’t matter if a small white lie, or smudging the details just a tiny bit, will make the story more compelling-it’s still not the truth.
If journalists allow fake news to happen without fact checking and ensuring the public knows it’s fake…then we are the route of the problem.
What it boils down to, is only report the facts and if something doesn’t seem right, we should challenge it. Let’s not live in a world where we allow our fellow citizens to believe Brown Cows make Chocolate Milk.