Research

Impact

The impact of fake news varies but does not have that big of an impact on the elections. To say it's poisoning our democracy or it won this guy or the other guy an election, we need a lot more research to be able to say that. What we can say is that the media uses the platform to control the public (Wendling, 2018).
Before Jacob Zuma resigned as South Africa's president there where many cases where people took the role of spreading the news president and quoted him by saying: "I would have preferred to carry through to the finish, whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so.". It turned out that this was a copy-paste quote from former US president Richard Nixon's resignation speech in 1974 (Carstens, 2018).
Countries like North Korea and China which is autocratic countries have the ability to control what the media publish because they know how difficult it is to cover up corruption, nepotism and maladministration if you have a free press (Carstens, 2018).

Background

Fake news is the spreading of information that has no evidence to prove that the information is valid and often is used to influence the opinion of people. We are flooded with information daily on social media. But don't get confused (Carstens, 2018). Ex. "See, this is why party x is racist," you would say. Or: "I knew that official was dodgy." This is not a case of sensationalist news. They might exaggerate, underplay or be selective in their reporting (which is another debate about the accuracy of news) but responsible outlets won't fabricate a story (Carstens, 2018). It was mid-2016, and Buzz feed's media editor, Craig Silverman, noticed a funny stream of completely made-up stories that seemed to originate from one small Eastern European town (Wendling, 2018). They found some news websites all registered in the same town in Macedonia called Veles. Shortly after they investigated they found 140 fake news websites which were pulling in huge numbers on Facebook (Wendling, 2018). In earlier days it was the press who would separate the wheat from the calf. To know what is true or false information, but in today's society every single person has to take on this role (Carstens, 2018). People would call twitter a 'self-cleaning oven because there was some false information but the community would quickly correct it. But today we're at a scale where if you add in automation and bots, that oven is overwhelmed. Because of the amount of news spread daily (Wendling, 2018).

Solution

    Ways to check for false information (Eugene & Lori, 2016):
  1. Check the date. Some false stories aren't completely fake, but rather distortions of real events. These mendacious claims can take a legitimate news story and twist what it says - or even claim that something that happened long ago is related to current events.
  2. Check the author for his or her Author page. People do create fake pages as well. Having won 14 prizes for a something that doesn't even exist but sounds good on a CV.
  3. Always read beyond the headline and don't just believe what the sub heading says. Read the article for more information to help prevent the embarrassment you'll find when you go and tell everybody your facts.
  4. Check your biases. Do further research on something that seems farfetched or surprising. This way you support your own knowledge about a specific topic. the next time you're automatically appalled at some Facebook post concerning, say, a politician you oppose, take a moment to check it out.

© Sean Strydom