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Fake news : can we believe everything on the internet?

Capucine Lalliard
Digital Society
7 min readMay 6, 2021

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Over the years, the Internet and new technologies have gradually become more important in our lives. The internet has now become one of our main sources of information as shown by the number of visits to the BBC website in 2020

Internet became one of the most important hub of knowledge, however, should we really believe everything we see on the internet?

What is a fake news?

According to Cambridge dictionary a fake news can be defined as false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke”. Fake news exists from ancient Rome and continue to spread today thanks to the modernization and development of the media. Indeed, fake news have had different roles over the centuries, it was used as propaganda by the Nazis in World War II or for example in the 1800s it was a way of reinforcing racial hatred towards African-Americans.

Nowadays fake news are considering as “a type of online disinformation, with totally or partially false content, created intentionally to deceive and/or manipulate a specific audience, through a format that imitates a news or report (acquiring credibility), through false information that may or may not be associated with real events, with an opportunistic structure (title, image, content) to attract the readers’ attention and to persuade them to believe in falsehood, in order to obtain more clicks and shares, therefore, higher advertising revenue and/or ideological gain” . Fake news is largely shared on social medias which has become an important source of information for most peopleand we will see that it is partly because of this that these fake news are widely shared.

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Social networks: a source of fake news?

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With the new ways of communication and the great flow of information to which we are exposed every day, fake news is now part of our daily lives. Indeed, on most social networks, most users are teenagers or young adults and this element is very interesting to understand why fake news proliferates on social media. Indeed, teenagers and young adults have sometimes not yet developed their critical faculties and are perhaps more easily influenced and therefore believe more easily what they will see on social media. Moreover, young people are likely to share what their relatives think and share even if it is wrong because they can be influenced and they have the will to belong to a group, to be integrated.

Futhermore, on social media there is a very large flow of information that is not necessarily always sourced. In addition most news are from posts and not from official account of organisations for example and so it easier for fake news to spread.

What do social media do?

In order to fight against fake news, social networks are starting to take measures to limit their spread. Facebook, for example, had to take action in 2020 against fake news about Coronavirus after the group Avaaz observes that 40% of Coronavirus information found on Facebook were false. Now, Facebook is working with 60 organizations in order to limited the flow of false information shared on the platform.

In the wake of Facebook, one of the most popular social media, Instagram, is also suffering from this new form of epidemic, fake news. 70% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 35 and so as we said it’s really important to prevent against fake news. Instagram works with a fact-checker to verify information that is shared. If information is false or partially false the post will be less shared to limit its impact, they have introduced a “false information” label that can be added to posts that are shared. This way the user is warned of misinformation and will be less likely to be a victim of fake news.

To finish with social media we are going to talk about a social media which is famous for to be criticized, Twitter. Indeed Twitter isn’t really taking actions against fake news Twitter’s open and real-time nature is a powerful antidote to the spreading of all types of false information. This is important because we cannot distinguish whether every single Tweet from every person is truthful or not. We, as a company, should not be the arbiter of truth. Journalists, experts and engaged citizens Tweet side-by-side correcting and challenging public discourse in seconds. These vital interactions happen on Twitter every day, and we’re working to ensure we are surfacing the highest quality and most relevant content and context first.” But they take actins in order to fight against bots or manipulative behaviour in order to protect their users “While bots can be a positive and vital tool, from customer support to public safety, we strictly prohibit the use of bots and other networks of manipulation to undermine the core functionality of our service”

Wikimedia

Are we powerless against fake news?

Etsy

In order to limit the spread of fake news it is also important to learn to distinguish misinformation from real information. First of all you have to think about the person or the organization who posted the news, is it a reliable source? Then you must think about the post, does it show the reality? Is it possible that the truth could have been changed or covered up? To finish think about the reasons why the person or the organization share this post, do they want to cause damage to someone or something? It’s also important to help children to develop their critical thinking, indeed, the next generations are and will be born in the internet world, so it is important to make them aware of the risks that may be present and above all to show that even if the internet remains a wonderful tool to develop one’s knowledge, it is necessary to be vigilant and not to believe everything.

Internet : good or bad?

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Nothing is ever black or white, there is good in the internet as well as bad, the most important thing is to know how to distinguish the good from the bad in what we see and this requires our ability to reflect and our critical sense.

What did I learn from Digital Society ?

As a child of gen Z I grew up surrounded by the internet and connected devices, I thought I had a good grasp of the internet world and knew everything about it. However, being very curious, I chose this unit to better understand the world around me, and I was very surprised. Indeed, this course has opened my eyes to certain aspects of our digital society because even though I have always lived in a digital society I discovered thanks to this unit that I wasn’t aware as I thought about the danger of internet.

I was particularly interested in week 4 “Critical analysis in a Digital World” and week 6 “The Individual, Identity and Ethics” and that is why I chose to tackle these themes through my article on Fake News. Indeed, on the internet I have the impression that everyone feels protected because they are behind their screen, they think they are anonymous, and therefore it gives them a feeling of omnipotence. However, we have seen that this is not true and that anything you do on the internet or share can come out. This risk I don’t think many people are aware of and I think it is important to teach people how to use the internet safely.

The week 4 “Critical analysis in a Digital World” was also very interesting because our own behaviour on the internet is not the only danger, other users are too. In order to protect yourself, you should not believe everything you see on the internet that’s why this is important to know how to develop our critical analyses skills and this course was really helpful to build our critical thinking.

Thanks to this class I was also able to discover Medium and thus enrich my knowledge and develop my thoughts on certain subjects by reading the articles that were posted there. I hope that I can also help to awaken the curiosity of the readers who will pass by here, including the future students of this unit, thanks to my small contribution. In effect, it has been a pleasure to create these articles and this has contributed to reinforce my communication skills but also helped me to have the confidence to put forward my ideas to a wider audience.

This course allowed me to better understand and master the world in which I evolve. I was also able to strengthen my knowledge by having a different view on this digital world and allowed me to discover the positive side of the new technology and this increasingly connected world. it will now be a chance for me to face the future more serenely

Thank you.

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