Stop sharing: see fake news for what it is

To the left, the logo of the true abc news website is shown. However, to the right, the logo of the fake site abcnews.com.co is shown. Pay attention to whether news is real or fake.

Jasper Green

To the left, the logo of the true abc news website is shown. However, to the right, the logo of the fake site abcnews.com.co is shown. Pay attention to whether news is real or fake.

Jack Benson, The Rubicon Editor

Whether or not the influence of fake news stories affected the outcome of the election, the viral spread of fake news needs to be stopped. Fake news became a huge epidemic toward the end of 2016 as more stories surfaced insulting or promoting the presidential candidates. This is a serious problem because it misinforms the public, and because it brings down the overall quality of internet journalism. Tech companies and news organizations are making large strides in the battle against fake news, but larger efforts need to be made, and the readers themselves need to do their part in order to stop the infection of fake news.

It will take a joint effort between social media and reliable news sources to be able to stop the spread of fake news stories. Facebook, after receiving a lot of criticism surrounding fake news, is now taking steps to raise the standard of internet journalism, and The Facebook Journalism Project, announced in January, outlines Facebook’s three part plan to combat its fake news. Facebook will now work directly with news organizations to educate journalists on how to use their platform, and help teach the public how to detect if a story posted on Facebook lacks fact. What Facebook is doing here is amazing and should be recognized because this is not just a half-hearted effort to drive off criticism. Facebook is making real changes to maintain the integrity of news.

Readers need to do their part in order to stop the infection of fake news”

Facebook is not the only internet giant battling the spread of fake news. Google is attacking the fake news websites where it hurts most: ad revenue. Google recognizes that the motive for most fake news stories is to make money, so according to Reuters they are banning fake news sites from using their ad network. This is a step in the right direction, but Google needs to do more for the cause by making it harder for fake news stories to show up in search results.

Some large news organizations, including The British Broadcasting Company, have made smaller attempts to check the integrity of news articles, and BBC in particular is setting a good example for other organizations. News Chief James Harding announced that the BBC is putting together a permanent task force to fact check news stories. There are too many stories for the task force to check them all, but this is a valiant step in the right direction towards protecting the public from fake news.

Readers should always check to make sure the article has trustworthy sources before believing it is true. Furthermore, almost all fake news stories are shoddily written and contain clear errors in both the stories and the websites. For example, one of the most shared fake news stories of 2016 was titled “Obama signs a nationwide order banning The Pledge of Allegiance in Schools.” It appeared on the fake abcnews.com website ‘abcnews.com.co’. The website abcnews.com.co, is riddled with errors, and all it takes is one look at the fictional reporter biography of Jimmy Rustling, a spin off of the phrase “to rustle one’s jimmies.” The website also lists a fake address which truly belongs to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Each contribution from tech companies or journalists will help to stop fake news from being so prevalent on the internet, but for the spread of fake news to ever be cured, the readers and sharers must change the way they interact with news. Look deeper into the content of a story, and don’t take the headline and the story’s validity for granted.