In the era of social media, the spread of fake news has become a major concern. The proliferation of fake news on the internet concerns all members of society, including government officials, lawmakers, private organisations, corporations, and citizens.
In recent years, fake news has been responsible for numerous incidents like political and communal violence across the globe, including Bangladesh. In all categories of information on social networks, false news spreads faster than the truth.
It is not new for misinformation to propagate on social media. Every day, we read dozens of news stories on social media that may or may not be accurate. Lots of information is posted with no verified facts, sources, or quotes, and many stories are fabricated to influence or deceive readers.
The issue of fake news relates to the way we think about the nature of actual news. The irony is such news is circulated on digital platforms faster than we can imagine.
WHAT IS FAKE NEWS?
According to Dictionary.com, the term fake news means "false news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared or distributed to generate revenue, or promote/discredit a public figure, political movement, company, etc".
Fake news is information presented as news known by its promoter to be false based on demonstrably incorrect facts or statements or events that verifiably did not happen.
Fake news frequently conjures up three distinct concepts: misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information.
Misinformation is erroneous information, it is considered true when conveyed, believed to be true, and shared.
Disinformation is information that is purposefully spread by someone who is aware that it is false.
Mal-information is knowledge founded on reality but is harmful to a person, organization, or country. We refer to it as fake news when we combine all of these aspects.
TYPE OF FAKE NEWS/HOW THEY ARE SPREAD?
The term "false news" or "fake news" refers to five categories. Some are fabricated (disinformation), while others result from human error or bias (misinformation). In either case, they have a clear consequence of deceiving the reader.
The five categories are:
1) Satire or parody – News satire is content that makes fun of news broadcasts and uses humour to engage its audience. The overall goal of sharing this type of information is usually to provide entertainment by making fun of political or socio-cultural events. Websites like The Onion and Daily Mash post false news items as a humorous attempt to ridicule the media, but they have the potential to deceive when shared out of context.
2) Fabricated content/imposter content - This type of information is not based on fact. However, it is presented or "published in the style of news articles to generate legitimacy" and is frequently considered a trustworthy source as partisan organisations choose the facts carefully and present them in a neutral way.
3) Sloppy reporting serves an agenda – News containing some grains of truth that have not been thoroughly confirmed and are utilised to bolster a specific position or point of view.
4) Propaganda – is not founded on facts. Instead, it supports an ongoing narrative -- news with no fixed standard of reality frequently resulting from clashing ideologies or viewpoints and unconscious biases. Conspiracy theories often end up here.
5) Intentionally deceptive – news purposely created to generate revenue through multiple clicks, to sow confusion or discontent, or serve as sensationalist propaganda. These tales are typically supplied via imposter news websites made to resemble real news companies or via fake news websites. They frequently exploit modified video and graphic visuals.
WHY DO PEOPLE SPREAD FAKE NEWS?
There are primarily two reasons why fake news is fabricated and posted on social media. Some share it for political, ideological, or commercial reasons; others share it for enjoyment.
However, some people spread fake news without realising that it is fake. Motivation can differ from person to person. Some feel proud to reveal information ahead of others while others believe they have a responsibility to inform the public about important news.
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis we have experienced, numerous fake news stories about the pandemic were rapidly spreading on social media and among the public.
From selling bizarre home treatments to spreading fake advisories warning consumers to avoid certain foods such as ice cream and chicken, phones are being inundated with misinformation. There are various methods for identifying fake news and remaining informed accurately.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE FAKE NEWS
Fake news frequently contains a precise viewpoint and may try to incite anger or other strong emotions in the reader. Such content may originate from a completely unfamiliar news source, and the news itself may be completely absurd.
Once you have identified a suspect piece of content, investigate the publisher and author. Do either of these individuals have a well-established reputation? Are they regarded as reliable sources? If not, do they provide citations for their sources, and are those sources reputable?
Fake news frequently makes use of fake authors and unverified sources. If the source has a history of making false claims or includes facts in the author's bio that do not appear believable (or if the author's bio is missing entirely), you should conduct additional research on the content.
For more information on the magazine or other media, visit their "About Us" page. You might pick up on suspicious details. In that case, cross-referencing is an important method to verify trustworthy sources.
Finally, do not forget to verify the content's release date. A story that appears suspicious may not be fake news; it may simply include out-of-date facts. Search for up-to-date news on the issue to fact-check any statements made in such information.
In addition to the previous considerations, there are several precise characteristics of a fake news item to be on the lookout for:
1) Fake website address – While the news may claim to be from a reputable source, is the website address correct? Compare the web URL with the main website of the corresponding news organization. If the address contains inconsistencies or misspellings, you may have discovered a forgery.
The news contains spelling and grammatical errors – Genuine news organisations engage editors to ensure that their content is of the highest quality. Frequently, publishers of fake news do not. As a result, fake news items may have an abnormal number of grammatical faults.
The news misrepresents or misquotes its sources – Citing relevant sources effectively increases the credibility of your argument. However, if the news sources are not adequately reflected, they should be examined with caution.
The author is unidentified or very well-known – Fraudulent publishers may use a generic author name or omit the byline entirely to evade detection. Alternatively, they might use the write-up of a famous person. For example, is it conceivable for Rawnak Zahan to write an article asserting that cancer is not a disease? Would she have made her assertions on a website with no track record if it was the case? In such circumstances, maintain a healthy scepticism.
However, several tools and methods are available for online verification procedures. Again, to verify an image/photo, to determine whether it is genuine or not, we can use the photo to conduct a reverse image search on Google or any other search engine.
It is capable of determining whether an image has been previously used. Additionally, it indicates the image's age and whether it has been used previously in other situations. Additionally, if any fact-checker has already reported on the subject, that statement will show as well. The same procedure is used to verify video clips containing fake news.
Even though multiple strategies are available to combat fake news on social media, they are not always sufficient.
Since there are no inspectors on social media, any content can be shared without being verified. Thus, if an option such as "is the content genuine" surfaces before sharing content, it may be greatly beneficial to individuals.
However, we as social media users must also play a significant part. Rather than pleading with social media companies to take the necessary steps, we may take on the role of editors by learning how to conduct research and verify the reality behind fake information.
Personal accountability is the first and most critical step toward safeguarding our society against fake content.
Abdullah Al Zafori is a research associate at the Centre for Governance Studies.
Views in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect CGS policy.