Dear Friends, Stop Sharing Fake News
I love you all, but please, please start fact-checking all of the bogus political articles you share on Facebook.
By Terry Nguyen, University of Southern California
Dear lovely political friends:
Stop reading fake political news articles.
You might be thinking, “Surely, not me! I’ve never shared a news article in my life on Facebook.”
That’s not the case I’m trying to make. We’ve all been there, done that and even believed in a conspiracy theory for a couple days (or months) until proven wrong.
In recent years, Facebook has evolved into a major news source with emerging digital outlets increasing our consumption of news media. With that comes a slew of what I call “fake news”—media organizations that publish overtly biased, clickbait-ey content with little to no factual basis—indoctrinating the Facebook public.
You’re probably shaking your head at my entitlement as a journalism student.
It’s true, I’m a shameless news junkie, but when so-called “news sources” start circulating on my Facebook feed—I start growing wary as a journalism student.
To my friends who read, share and believe these news articles, I do not mean to offend or incriminate you in any way when I ask you these questions.
Have you heard of these news site before? Or do you just believe what you read? Do you check the credibility of their writing (like a simple Google search)? Or do you just automatically trust a site that claims they tell the “truth” of what the government is hiding?
Yes, we’ve all heard the claims that “the media is biased,” from both Trump supporters and Bernie lovers. But really, do you need to turn to no-name news sites that brew conspiracy theories to suit your needs?
I admit—even I am tempted to click on certain links because of their clickbait-like titles. These sites, however, cater to a specific audience and play on their deeply held beliefs and fears. Take for example Breitbart News: They frighten lovely, conservative Christian folks everyday with the possibility of another four years of democratic liberalism that promises transgender rights, stronger gun protections and a supportive base of Muslims for Clinton (even more proof of her hidden identity as a terrorist).
You can’t possibly believe this is news, right?
Quite recently, I saw a TruthUncensored article gaining a lot of support from my friend feed on Facebook. It was about leaked emails from the Clinton campaign and how Clinton should be jailed for her connection with Saudi Arabia. The girl who shared it was quick to claim #NeverHillary, condemning Clinton to jail and demanding that she return the $25 million she stole from Saudi nations.
Although it’s tempting to believe most of the fabricated facts in these articles, most of the claims were easily proven false when I did some personal research on Politifact, factcheck.org and other reliable news sites that gave me the entire picture of Clinton’s link to the Saudis.
Believe me, I was as skeptical about Clinton as anybody when she started her campaign, but with information surfacing literally everywhere on the Internet (thanks Wikileaks), there’s always room for research to help you get the facts straight.
So, please friends, please do not believe everything you read.
With such a controversial election season, it’s easy to get caught up in the claims of both candidates against each other. After all, they’re running an opposition campaign with the goal of digging as much dirt about each other’s pasts as possible. Sometimes, that results in the creation of crazy conspiracy theories which are eaten up by the masses on Facebook.
After the Trump tapes, the mainstream media is unabashedly seeking to destroy the Trump campaign, catering towards a more liberal audience. Media bias exists, but their content, however, remains backed up by a history of evidence (tape recordings, leaked footage, court filings) by Trump. The same can be said for Clinton. Evidence of her script speeches and emails is being used against her.
So I say this to you my friends. In this crazy world, please take everything you see with a grain of salt. I hope you realize that it is ultimately YOUR decision on how far you educate yourself on the presidential candidates, their policies and their past.
Not everything published online should be taken seriously. Do you remember those lessons we had in English class back in high school about checking your sources? That applies to news media as well.
I don’t blame you for falling into the trap of these articles. I really don’t.
Once or twice, I’ve stumbled upon a few articles that have confused me in the past. Take, for example, The Onion. A first time news reader would be so surprised to see Melania Trump publish her own opinion article on her husband, but clearly, it can’t be a hoax. It can’t be satire; it’s a published news source!
With InfoWars, I can understand how one could be skeptical of it being a false news source. I mean, Alex Jones of InfoWars even has his own radio show, broadcast segment and newsletter. It looks like reliable reporting—it doesn’t matter if his Wikipedia description blatantly coins him as a conspiracy theorist.
I’ll give you this though. It’s been hard to tell what’s true and what’s not in the world of politics as of late. If two presidential candidates need avid fact-checkers during a debate watched by millions of viewers, it clearly tells you something about our political state.
Recently, even mainstream media has been leaning towards the liberal left, garnering criticism from conservatives. Certain new media outlets, like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, have published clickbait-type articles that sensationalize their topics and play towards their left-leaning audience.
It’s up to us readers (and as citizens of this troubled country) to check ourselves, regardless of the news source, before we read a controversial article and form our opinions on an issue. The free press exists to protect our democracy while working to promote freedom of speech and expression. However, that allows for a dissonance of voices that might not always be true or reliable.
Don’t get caught in conspiracy theories!
All the best,