We have heard a LOT about “Fake News” in the last couple of years. In fact, if you don’t have at least some idea of what that term means, then you obviously have not read very many articles or watched the nightly news.

It came to a head during the last Presidential election and is still  going strong, today. It is not a new issue and their are examples of it going back over a century, but with the advent of Social Media, it has exploded!

What Is Fake News and Why Is It Created?

I am not going to go into a lot of detail in this post about what fake news is, but in a nutshell, fake news is any form of fictional or exaggerated information that is presented as if it were a factual account.

Sometimes, it is purely for entertainment purposes and probably can be considered satire. Sites such as The Onion and National Report are examples of sites that use satirical news in order to attract an audience. I will leave you to your own judgement as to whether it is entertaining or not.

In other cases, the news generated by these false journalists is about changing public opinion or exposing a “perceived” injustice. In my opinion, it is generally about money. Many people speak of fake news as a way to create change in our society and I do believe it has had that effect. However, I don’t think this is a positive method of social awareness and change.

Oftentimes, this type of information is created in order to incite anger and outrage which can have serious consequences such as the man who was arrested and convicted for trying to “investigate” a fake news example. The example in question, claimed that a Washington DC pizzeria actually housed a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton.  Thankfully, no one was hurt in this instance (other than the man who is being sent to prison), but it could have been much worse.

These types of situations arise when readers don’t bother to consider the validity of what they are reading and simply hit the “share” button and spread the propaganda even further.

How Can You Spot Fake News?

There are usually some “triggers” that can make fake news easier to spot. Her are a few of things to consider when checking on whether something might be fake.

  • How does the headline make me feel? – I know this may seem odd, but I have found that if a headline to an article generates a strong emotional response, it is more likely to be false information. At the least, it is probably meant for the headline to evoke a strong enough reaction, so that the reader will read the article. Even if the article is legitimate news, the headline is often exaggerated in order to entice you inside. In my opinion, this is a form of fake news as well. The term for this type of headline is called click-bait.
  • Who is the author? Are they reputable? – Many sites and authors of fake news will come from a source that you have never heard of. If you don’t know the source, be skeptical. Also, beware of sources that appear to be from a legitimate or trusted source. You may see a website link to abcnews.com.co or something similar. The “.co” part of the address is a dead giveaway. the real address for ABC News would be abcnews.com without the “.co” part of the address. Also, don’t forget that even legitimate news outlets can be fooled into spreading news that is untrue and not properly vetted for accuracy.
  • Read the Whole Article – Many of the articles you read will entice you to share the information without actually reading the content. However, by reading the article attached to that headline, you may very well find it sounds a little too outlandish to be true or that the headline was simply click-bait. Please don’t share this kind of article. It only perpetuates the problem.
  • Check the Facts With Other Sources – If the article you read seems pretty emotional or sensational, then it will be reported in other news outlets as well. If you don’t find it anywhere else except suspect sources, this should be a big red flag. Don’t forget to check all of the facts in the article. Another way to perpetuate misinformation is to make it sound legitimate and even cite legitimate sources within the content. However, these citations are frequently fictitious as well.

If a news piece passes all of these tests, then it is likely to be a legitimate news story. You should be safe sharing it with your friends and followers.

If you are still in doubt, I recommend that you err on the side of caution by not passing this information along. If we all start being more discerning about what we share on social media, the issue of fake news will die out and become less of a problem in the future.

How Can I Stop Fake News From Showing Up In My Feeds?

The best way to stop fake news in your social media feeds is to simply unfollow those who spread the fake news. If you follow a page known for spreading false information, simply unlike that page. But what if that is not enough?

We all have those friends on social media who will share anything that has a headline that fits into their beliefs. Whether it be on President Trump, gun control, politics, etc., they will share anything if the headline is outrageous enough. This applies to Memes as well. How do we stop seeing their “garbage” and still remain friends?

Most of these seem to me to be on Facebook, so I am going to focus on that. There are a couple of ways to do this on Facebook. The following customization are found in your feed on each specific post in your feed. Just click on the post settings button that looks like three dots (…).

First, you can just unfollow the person who is sharing the content. You are still friends, but you won’t see their posts. Problem solved. Let’s face it, we only really care about a small portion of our FB friends anyway, right.

Okay, so maybe we do care about our FB friends. The second method is less drastic and works well for most people. If you want to still see most of your friend’s post, but not the ones about certain topics, you can tell FB to Hide Posts. This will show fewer posts of that nature. I have not found that to be very effective.

A better option for me has been to use the Hide All Posts From (Page Name), setting. Most of the offending information comes from the same sources, so hiding their content will reduce the amount of fake news you see. This method takes work and will take time to be effective, but it does slow the stream of junk. This is what I use most often to control what I get fed in my feed.

The whole “Fake News” issue can be a very frustrating and negative problem for many people. If we take steps now to become more educated and discerning on the topic, maybe we can eradicate it in the future. Please, take a minute and think about the information you are about to share before you hit the button.