Would you approach any random stranger passing by on the street for some pressing news of the day? Well, if you’re the answer is no, then, you’ll be shocked to hear that this is just exactly how most of you behave on the internet. However, as per research, most of us lack the ability to judge the veracity of a news website and tend to believe even the “Fake News” posted on it. Among many headlines, Hillary Clinton using a body double throughout the campaign and selling weapons to ISIS grabbed most eyeballs.
The 2016 election season saw the maximum fake news and comprised stories which could easily be shared across social media. As per a recent analysis, the most popular fake election news stories were shared more times on social media platforms than the most popular stories in the mainstream media.
The sole purpose of these fake news is maximizing visitor hits to generate massive revenue. These are not intended to pose an alternative truth rather, destroy truth altogether. Alongside, they occupy a unique place on the web and constitute a threat to visitors. The inability of so many readers to distinguish fake news from the original one and not knowing when to steer clear of a website altogether is undoubtedly concerning.
Education: A Vaccine for Fake News
For a generation of digital natives, we say that understanding the importance of authentic information is challenging. But, is it actually so? Media literacy education is a solution to fake news wherein educating students on the ways to discern false and credible sources of information is emphasised.
Approximately 50% children of the total 853, aged 10 to 18 claim to distinguish fake news from a real one. While, at the same time, 31% accepted to have shared a story on their respective social media platforms in the past 6 months that they later discovered was false. Social media was their major source of news, with YouTube and Facebook being the popular platforms.
Media literacy focuses upon identifying the agenda behind a story and to think about the goals of the organization behind that particular story. Alongside, one must also shift their focus considering the missing points of view from that message.
But, finding time for media literacy is a task in itself and you can integrate that with critical thinking. It reflects on how you make decisions, gain information in your life and do it in a way that works the best for you.
Think like a Journalist
Distinguishing between fake news and misinformation is another thing that must be focused upon. So, along with educating about media literacy, it’s also important to help people understand the difference between the two, like a mistake reported in a news story. Since the landscape for young people is quite different, it is utmost important to teach them what news looks like and what actually the standards of quality journalism are.
Therefore, critical evaluation of bias and perspective in primary sources with the necessary skills is enough to evaluate the links that appear on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. However, healthy and well-deserved scepticism can go a long way.
The ease with which we can contribute to the web as per our own convenience is both a blessing and curse. The internet is both a goldmine of information as well as a minefield of misinformation and distortion. One can steer clear of fake news and at the same time, reinforce the importance of a responsible and informed citizenry by educating the ways where one can distinguish fake news from the authentic one. In doing so, we strengthen the very pillars of democracy.