Do your research, don’t be a click-bate victim

Fake news the bane of truth seekers - in this week's Ponoka News editorial.

The speed at which fake information proliferates on the Internet is staggering.

Upstart websites pushing a specific agenda any agenda will do as long as it stokes fear and anger have harvested massive followings, which leads to revenue. Or more scary, some control over the actions of their readers.

To deal with this troubling issue, the fact that people seem to believe everything that’s put in front of their face, the big players such as Google and Facebook have started banning fake news sites from their advertising. (It’s about time.)

Ever see that photo of Abraham Lincoln with the attributed quote: “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet just because there’s a photo with a quote next to it.”

Lincoln couldn’t have been more right.

People are not making informed decisions. Sharing these clickbait news stories is creating a vast hole of real knowledge in the world and folks are falling hook, line and stinker.

I’m no saint. I’ve had my fair share of “oops” moments on Facebook sharing a catchy headline or video that was completely off-base. I have learned from those moments. I read, I research and then I make an informed decision.

Sure, websites like Snopes.com will confirm a story is fake, but how do you stop a freight train once it gets going? It’s impossible, something the authors of fake news stories are hoping for.

Granted there are times individuals inadvertently create fake news. The New York Times conducted a case study recently of just such an incident. A Twitter user, Eric Tucker, had 40 followers on Twitter when he saw buses at a convention. His initial thought was that these buses belonged to a group of Trump protesters.

So, he snapped a photo and stated as much in his Tweet. It took four hours to go to a Reddit group (Reddit is a social news web content and discussion site with the term “The front page of the Internet”). That Reddit group was a pro-Trump group who posted a “Breaking” story on the Tweet.

Nine hours later that story had become a truly viral hit, making it to conservative websites across the globe. The truth is the buses were part of a conference that had nothing to do with Trump, or the election.

The real issue isn’t whether it’s left or right leaning news; the problem is the dissemination of fake news information that writers know will stoke up their readers. These fake news sites can also include false health or science stories.

One solution comes from the bigger websites that have control over how the revenue flows, which is starting to trend. There’s one other solution.

The power to confirm or deny a fake news source comes directly from the reader. It is imperative that we educate ourselves and check our sources when reading anything. Sure, the evil conspiracy is a tempting hook and sharing it to one’s friends is quite satisfying if they too become indignant.

Yet, if one were to dig into the story and start looking at the actual sources some of them would go around in circles. That’s a good indicator for those unsure.

Another trick to remember is similar to the “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is,” adage. If the story is so incredible that it’s hard to believe, maybe go in there with a discerning eye and questioning mind. You might just learn something about what’s really happening there.

 

Just Posted

Reflections: Celebrating the long history of the Ponoka Fire Department

The department served Ponoka for 112 years protecting area residents

WCPS to set meeting with Alberta Education

Wolf Creek Public Schools wants to see some clarification on student funding

UCP leader uses Ponoka fundraiser to prep party for spring election

Jason Kenney focused on policy convention and need for united front in order to win in 2019

Concerns of CFOs has Ponoka County considering changes

County council approves hiring of consultant to help with MDP changes

WCPS approves new name for Ponoka Outreach School

Trustees accept suggestion to rename Ponoka Outreach, awaiting Alberta Education approval

NDP gives Liberal budget ‘failing grade’ on gender equality

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson said budget doesn’t do enough to focus on pay equity

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

Men arrested at Starbucks say they feared for their lives

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks, becoming viral video

Did a Canadian shoot down the Red Baron? A century later, debate hasn’t quit

Om April 21, 1918 two Canadians in their canvas-covered Sopwith Camel biplanes engaged the enemy

VIDEO: Canadian teen lands invite to Royal wedding

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have invited Faith Dickinson, founder of Cuddles for Cancer

Ponoka County worries about Prussian carp in Gull Lake

Alberta Environment delays pumping due to at least 1,000 carp found near the pump channel inlet

Health committee cheers idea of national pharmacare program, but cost an issue

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu says she fears costs could be far higher than $19 billion

Canada’s oldest blood donor says it’s all gain, no pain after decades of giving

Great-grandmother and Coquitlam, B.C., resident has been donating blood since the late 1940s

Most Read