Fake news drives social media

Seth Ickes, Columnist

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Fake news has been a wildly hot topic this year in the world of politics, from the “Pizza-gate” scandal to a false claim that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump, they’ve plagued social media networks. According to a Vox report entitled “The top 20 fake news stories outperformed real news at the end of the 2016 campaign” in last three months of the presidential election cycle, fake news stories had more Facebook engagements than real news stories.

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Fake news stories clocked in at 8.7 million Facebook engagements to over a million less than mainstream news stories, from sites like the New York Times and Washington Post. These fake news stories cover a variety of topics and people while existing on both sides of the political spectrum.

The disconcerting aforementioned statistics beg the question, what do we do about fake news stories? Google has made a concentrated effort to ban websites that distribute fake news from making advertisement revenue, a solid start to a much bigger problem.

De-incentivizing the potential for fake news to profit from advertisement revenue puts a large dent in one of the main purposes of fake news sites. Taking the money making potential still doesn’t eliminate fake news entirely or address the more pressing issue of why people believe fake news.

Is the success of fake news this election cycle unique to the candidacy of Donald Trump? Does the belief of fake news stem from the false stories fitting into the narrative or viewpoints of social media users or is it a true belief in the fake news? Or does the American appetite for fake news stories stem from a lack of understanding of the function of government/civic engagement?

Digesting fake news stories is a case best left to the individual and a matter of personal responsibility over anything else. Censoring or banning fake news from social media entirely is arguably unethical from a first amendment standpoint and with a White House as anti-press as President-elect Trump’s, free speech rights need all the protection they can get.

Individuals should be able to separate the fake news from the real news and check their sources without intervention from others; it’s a matter of personal responsibility and civic duty.

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