Rumors spread in the speed of light, and most of us had probably at least once witnessed that in our lifetime. We expect the media to be a trustworthy source, and yes, there are many reliable newspapers and websites where we can find out about what is happening in the world. However, increasingly more fictitious websites and articles, claiming many untrue things- from small misunderstandings, to deliberate accusations- is being made.
In today’s English lesson, we focused on the negative sides of the media and we talked about how it affects our society. We also discussed how the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, might have misused it to get into power. We have read a few articles that we found truthful, and tried to find conclusions based on the texts. Starting off with the video incident- president-elect forbade Jim Acosta, a CNN journalist to ask him a question, followed by calling the TV station “fake news”. This is an extremely provocative move, and disobeying the station put a lot of criticism on Trump. Without explanation, he accused the journalist, then ignored him for the rest of the video. This happened at Trumps very first press conference, on the 11th of January 2017. Already at the beginning of his presidency, he showed his ability to easily manipulate the crowds of the US.
An article by CJR explains the whole happening in detail. The most shocking fact of this absurd is that no other present TV station showed their support for Acosta, staying speechless throughout the whole conversation between Trump and the correspondent. According to the author of the CJR article I read in class, the rest of the present journalist’s duty was to either “pick up Acosta’s line of questioning, or even refuse to continue asking questions, until the President-elect acknowledges the organization he had earlier attacked.” What he also finds alarming, is that they weren’t ready to stand in Acosta’s defense- especially that this wasn’t the first time that the president-elect had ejected a reporter.
Even Facebook itself is getting involved in a project, with the objective to stop fake news appearing on that social media. On a daily basis, they manage to block some of the click baits, but there are many more that get to see the light of day.
“The Facebook Journalism Project will offer training and tools for journalists in order to assist newsgathering and reporting, as well as provide “new storytelling formats.”
Fortunately, there is a bright light at the end of this tunnel. Different domains are concerned and therefore finding ways to solve this problem. The platform has planned “a project for stronger detection of misinformation and improved verification methods.” This is meant to help decrease spreading fake news.
In order to minimize the amount of fake news which is being spread on the web, google is being more careful of what is being put out in their search engine. Many different fake news detectors are being established, like for example Hoaxy, which is supposed to help track untrue articles. However, we ourselves can also easily check, if what we are reading is genuine. By controlling other sources, the author and the general reliability of the website, we can easily see if the article can be considered as legitimate. We should also focus on the text as a whole, not only rely on the headline which might me misleading. It might be relevant to mention, that many newspapers and news sites, like eg. The Sun, Daily Mirror or Daily Mail, have a relatively bad reputation. Therefore to confirm the information, we should follow the steps I have mentioned above.
My teacher created a padlet, where we could give our opinions on fake news and how we can avoid it. We have received feedback from many students and other people interested in the topic. Everyone has similar opinions and I also agree with all the comments. However, there is one entry that specifically caught my attention- from Cayden T Lewis. From his point of view, the real problem isn’t the fake news itself, but it’s the society which isn’t-and should- be able to distinguish the pseudo-news. In his opinion, the people should change their conception on the government and not only keep believing that it wants to hurt us. His solution to this issue is to give better education and increase the public opinion of the government. I feel I do relate with the author of the comment in some way, but I think there is so much more to it, that we could go on discussing the problem for days.
We had the opportunity to talk on Skype with students from South Africa, whom we asked questions regarding the fake news topic. It was a class of 15/16 year olds, all very involved in the topic. We wanted to know their opinions on the situation in North America, and whether fake news is an issue in their country. It turned out that we don’t really differenciate in our conclusions. This entails that regardless which country you live in, you get the same amount of information, as media spreads extremely rapid. On the padlet, we also got answers from students in Australia, USA and Bergen, a city which lies by the west coast of Norway. I reckon that they are in our age group, but I know that students from Bergen are in middle school. They wrote many smart comments, all relevant to the topic.
Staying focused on the fact that fake news is an actual and growing issue, I should also mention it’s affection on democracy and the future. The majority of USAs citizens are second class, working people with average education. Considering this, it is obvious that many of them are dependent on the politicians and their actions. However, due to their fair knowledge, they can be easily manipulated- and this is where fake news come into the picture. This has a massive and very negative impact on the democracy, which has trouble coping with the charges being put against them, and the need to explain every false article. If the society won’t think twice before believing something and is able to accuse without proper argumentation, the future of the world looks very alarming and doesn’t bode the best scenarios. Therefore, we, the people, should ourselves try to make a change to that- before it is too late.
I myself wasn’t aware what big of an issue fake news were until now. I was usually able to differentiate real and false posts on Facebook, but once in a while, I caught myself in believing untrue articles. After so much research on this topic, I am much more informed what kind of damage this issue is doing to our society. From now on, I am definitely going concentrate on being attentive to what I read, and mature in my judgments.