Fake News isn’t always obvious to spot. Most of the time, the most successful fake news articles look in fact real.

Fake News has been an overwhelming trend that has grown substantially since 2017. It supposedly has become “one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate and the Western order.” (Carson: Daily Telegraph, 2019)

So what really is fake news? Why is it so controversial? Can we really trust our news sources? 

What is fake news? 

Fake News also known as junk news is deliberate disinformation. It is mainly found on the internet that circulates online and in the media. Fake news is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers by making articles look like trusted websites. These stories or news articles are usually created for the main purpose to influence other people’s views or could potentially be for a profit.

Types of fake news: 

Here are the main types of fake news that everyone should be aware of when evaluating content online:

Clickbait: These are stories that are intended to grab your attention and use deliberate headlines to drive click-throughs to the publisher websites mostly at the expense of the truth or accuracy.

Propaganda: Is the spread of ideas used as form of persuasion to influence people or to mislead audiences.

Satire/Parody: There are social media accounts and Websites that generate attention by publishing fake news stories for entertainment purposes and parody.

Sloppy Journalism:  To generate stories journalists or reporters can publish an article with unreliable information and even go as far as composing a story without checking all of the facts which can mislead audiences.

Misleading headings: A misleading headline is intended to capture attention. Whilst the article may not be completely false it can be distorted using misleading or attention grabbing headlines.

Biased / slanted news: Through AI technology is able to tailor social media news feeds based on our personalised searches which can generate biased feeds.

An example of Fake News: Propaganda

Propaganda is the spread of ideas used as form of persuasion to influence people or to mislead audiences. There have been several recent examples that highlights the use of propaganda as fake news.

Recently, there has been a video spreading on Facebook about Nancy Pelosi whereby the video has been slowed down and altered to make her appear drunk. Various news platforms have addressed this, including Facebook itself stating that it was in fact fake yet couldn’t take it down.

In a MSNBC news clip they mention that,“the video is released after Trump called Pelosi “a mess” who has “lost it. Trump also re-tweeted a Fox Business Network segment, featuring a video montage of Pelosi that was selectively edited together to show her stumbling over her words.” 

Take a look for yourself:

Footage of Nancy Pelosi deliberately slowed down to make her appear drunk

How to spot fake news?

Here are a few ways to spot fake news when you are evaluating content online:

  1. Take a closer look
    Check the source of the story, do you recognise the website? Is it a credible/reliable source? If you are unfamiliar with the site, look in the about section or find out more information about the author.
  2. Look beyond the headline
    Check the entire article, many fake news stories use sensationalist or shocking headlines to grab attention. Often the headlines of fake new stories are in all caps and use exclamation points.
  3. Check other sources
    Are other reputable news/media outlets reporting on the story? Are there any sources in the story? If so, check they are reliable or if they even exist!
  4. Check the facts
    Fake news stories often contain incorrect dates or altered timelines. It is also a good idea to check when the article was published, is it current or an old news story?
  5. Check your biases
    Are your own views or beliefs affecting your judgement of a news feature or report?
  6. Is it a joke?
    Satirical sites are popular online and sometimes it is not always clear whether a story is just a joke or parody… Check the website, is it known for satire or creating funny stories

Still don’t understand how to spot fake news? Watch this video:

How to Spot Fake News – FactCheck.org

Code of ethics and fake news:

A code of ethics is a set of principles designed to help professionals conduct their work honestly and with integrity. It is vital that journalists don’t publish inaccurate or false information online as there is a number of implications that can come from this.

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliances’

The Australian MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics has 12 ethics that journalists must educate themselves and apply it to their work. Their first code of ethics states:

“Report and interpret honestly striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.”

(MEAA, 2019)

On the other hand, the US codes from Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) very much differ to Australia as there is a lot more guidelines and principles to follow. One principle states:

“Journalists should take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.”

(Seaman, 2019)

Both organisation are against fake news and this can be seen through SPJ, the code of conduct specifically states, “never deliberately distort facts.

As fake news has become increasingly prevent in society, many people are not to discern fact from fiction. Journalists have an ethical responsibility to uphold the relevant standards. However, unfortunately sensational headlines attract the audience.

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