Incredible how quickly the term ‘fake news’ has gone from unknown to hashtag superstar. The recent US election was a masterclass in how quickly people are now able to use social media in particular to spread false information, or information that is so badly distorted or one-sided that it is at very least more propaganda than news – but certainly fake. As mainstream news sources struggled to understand how they had lost control of disseminating ‘the news’, research emerged that showed that a huge number of people now get their news mainly or even exclusively from social media, in particular Facebook. As my own feed showed, the articles are cleverly written to appeal to our existing likes and prejudices (on both sides of the political spectrum), and many of my friends were sharing them in the genuine belief that they were true.
The corporations behind the social media giants are bristling with indignation that they might be part of the problem, and they’ve recently made changes to ensure that users are able to alert them when ‘fake news’ pops up on their screens. Sometimes it’s a bit of a faff (yep, that’s the official spelling!), but we all need to do our bit.
Late last year the BBC published a decent guide to deciding whether or not something is indeed ‘fake news’, with details of how to report it on from various social media platforms. This is something that you really should share with friends.