Fake News, Real Consequences

The Internet is a sea of knowledge, whether that knowledge be true or false, interpreting the data the wrong way and acting upon it can lead to dire consequences. Most credible news sources are those we have all known to be legitimate pre-internet, but with the rise of click-bait tactics to lure people in for traffic a new phenomenon has arisen. ‘False news’ is the term given to… well just that, fictitious news content created and distributed via online.

Fake news seems to be created with a variety of intents. From harmless entertainment to more the more insidious virus and malware distributors, the spectrum is broad and one of the reasons fake news bad sides far out weigh the good.

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Picture via The Plunder

The term click-bait is assigned to headlines, whether from real of fake news, that are specifically worded to trigger a response within the viewer and get them to click on the link, even if the link isn’t actually to anything relevant to the insinuated topic. This is seen everywhere and have and continue to encounter it while navigating through their Facebook profiles. The reason click-bait is such a problem is because on one hand, it poses a threat to the user clicking on the add and being taken to a site with material they had no intention of being on by putting them at risk for malware, viruses, and/or marketing scams/schemes. On the other hand, a business or marketing agency seeking the opportunity to have the chance to honestly connect with their target customers they are unable to do so, because the customers become untrustworthy of all links via the web whether they be legitimate or not.

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Picture via New York Times

 

Popular sites like The Onion tote real news headlines with fictitious stories aimed at entertaining their readers. Although fake, the headline of their website cites it as “Americas Finest News Source”. Now I can appreciate this, but we’ve all seen that relative or distant friend we never talk to on Facebook link an Onion article and start ranting as if it were real. The sad fact is that for those too ignorant to get the joke, take it as fact, and that confusion only adds to the hostility and uglier nature of the Internet. Reactions like these can lead to instances like the one reported on recently in The New York Times where a man who believed a local pizzeria was actually the hub of a huge child sex trafficking ring due to a fake news article, and discharged a rifle within the restaurant.

 

Published by

UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism