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Lies, lies, lies! Fake news the epidemic plaguing the Internet

January 13, 2017 • Features, General, Top Stories

Fake news continues to be a problem around the world and its implications can not be underestimated.

Fake news continues to be a problem around the world and its implications can not be underestimated.

The internet is a wonderful place, filled with information aplenty from thousands if not millions of different sites. You can basically find out anything you want to know on the Internet, the only problem is, it is not all true. In fact, in a growing trend an increasing number of fake news sites seem to be popping up by the day.

Yesterday Donald Trump held his first news conference since becoming president-elect, where he slammed the news media that published so called “phony reports” according to a report by Aljazeera. Trump was angered saying that “It’s all fake news”. But as soon as the reports were out there they spread like wildfire on the Internet. Trump had to act quickly to get ahead of the story and minimize its impact and did so via his twitter page (@realDonaldTrump) where he denied the claims and went on the offensive in true Trump fashion.

Fake news in Africa

Africa is not immune to the spreading of fake news, as naïve and unsuspecting Internet users fall into the trap of accepting fake news as real. A report in the Mail & Guardian highlighted the impact fake news had in the 2016 Municipal election in South Africa. Fake reports were circulated claiming that ANC marked ballots were found on Tuesday 1 August, the day before the election. The purpose of the article was to make the ANC look corrupt and by the Tuesday afternoon an estimated 38 468 had read the article. Although both the ANC and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) both denied the claims and branded the report as fake news there is no way to determine who saw the story and believed it.

The role of social media

Social media plays a huge role in the spread of these false news sites and the stories which they produce. It is often the gullible person who’s scrolling through their feed, reads the sensationalistic click-bait headline which entices them to read the unverified story which they take as fact and in turn share it on their own social media pages and so the cycle continues. In today’s digital age everyone who carries a smartphone can produce content, thus making it more important than ever to be critical about whatever you read on the Internet.

How to spot fake news

How do I know what is real and what is not? Well its quite simple actually, if a story seems sensationalistic, it could very well be fake so check if a well-known reputable news organization are reporting the same story. Another option is to look at the website’s about page, often these websites are marked as satirical news sources and this will be made clear here. The main defense against being caught out by one of these fake reports is to be critical on whatever you read, check if the article has been sourced and please don’t share it if you are unsure, it could save you some embarrassment.

The reality of fake news is one that people have to accept. It shows no signs of slowing down and so the responsibility falls on the individual to help and defeat one of the biggest scourges of the Internet.

By Dean Workman

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