“Fake news” has become a new buzzword for the ages. During the 2016 election, headlines like “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Donald Trump for president,” “WikiLeaks confirms Hillary sold weapons to ISIS … Then drops another bombshell” and “ISIS leader calls for American Muslim voters to support Hillary Clinton” swept the internet. These headlines came from illegitimate websites that produce false news stories. According to an extensive report by Buzzfeed News, headlines like these garnered at least two million Facebook clicks in the last three months before the election.
“Fake news” resurged during the first few weeks of President Trump’s presidency as well. Trump famously said, “You are fake news,” to CNN reporter Dan Acosta this past January at a press conference. President Trump claims that news organizations like CNN and The New York Times are fake.
The seriousness of these “fake news” articles and these false accusations of “fake news” are easy to ignore. After all, these headlines are arguably laughable, especially the seemingly incredulous ones. “Saturday Night Live” has made light of the subject with jokes, the most recent being a CNN reporter locked in a prison in a corner of a press conference hosted by Sean Spicer, played by Melissa McCarthy.
However, “fake news” is much more dangerous than late night comedy may let on. BBC News’ Amol Rajan argues that “fake news” is “hostile to the democratic process.” As citizens of the United States, we uphold the right to vote, and to vote well is to be well-informed. Spreading fake news undermines the importance of valid information.
“Fake news” also leads to a severe distrust of the news media. News outlets are a key component in connecting the American citizen to her or his government. Without trustworthy news media, citizens may become ignorant of what is happening in their world.
We at The Fordham Ram argue that “fake news” is a result of current popular news access. According to a 2016 study by Pew Research Center, 62 percent of adults get their news from social media, up from 49 percent in 2012.
As a result, news has been condensed to a point where people only read article’s headlines and taglines. According to a study done by Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of people read headlines in place of the articles themselves before sharing. In other words, ludicrous headlines catch more attention and shares then the actual content of the articles are capable of holding.
The dangers of “fake news” run deeper with us Fordham students. Our generation arguably knows the internet better than any other before. We have had the interesting opportunity to grow with the changing technology. As a result, we have adapted alongside the evolving technological landscape. Therefore, we must take the reigns and adapt once again. This time, we must demand true facts from our media outlets. No more being passive or joking lightly about “fake news.” Rather, we need to take action to stop its spread.
We encourage Fordham students to, as The Guardian says, “share responsibly,” to take steps to educate ourselves on the legitimacy of a news source before sharing. FactCheck.org cites a list of things to do before sharing, including considering the source, checking the author and consulting the experts. The Guardian cites three different Google Chrome plugins available that detect “fake news.” If your friend is sharing “fake news” on Facebook or Twitter, inform them of their inaccuracy privately and respectfully. With steps like these, it will be easier to know whether or not a news headline is just clickbait. With more careful sharing, “fake news” will become less and less of a threat.
In this day and age, it takes time and effort to find the truth. But that does not mean that we are any less deserving of the truth, nor does it mean truth should lose its cruciality. We, as the generation of the Information Age, are responsible for the perseverance of truth. It is on us to make sure that lies stay unbelievable.