The headline should say it all, but I know that people won’t get it, so here goes the explanation…
First, fake news isn’t the reason the election turned out the way it did. There are many reasons for that, not the least of which was the remarkably large number of people who stayed home and didn’t bother voting. To those people, I say “you get what you paid for.”
But news–even fake news–is a product that we consume, just like potato chips, movies, books, music, hot dogs, vitamins, and shampoo. We as consumers have gotten very good at reading and researching information about the food we eat, making sure it’s local, or organic, or not containing chemicals, and the like.
And yet, somehow, consumers are not expected to do the same with the information they’re presented with under the guise of being “news.” And that’s a HUGE problem.
We all need to review this information to make sure it’s real. We need to make sure it isn’t slanted too heavily in one direction or the other. And above all, we need to make sure it’s accurate.
How do we do that? Research. This is the core of the problem: people are lazy about consuming their news. They get it from headlines posted in Facebook, or links in Twitter, but that is colored by the people they follow, so it probably isn’t wide-ranging in its sources. And they seem to assume that if it’s got a headline, is on a website that looks legit, and links to other articles and offers quotes from someone they’ve heard of, that it’s all good.
But the magic of the internet is that this stuff is all to easy to fake. As easy as it is to get information out quickly on the information superhighway (remember that term?), it’s just as easy to get bad information out quickly. Someone writes the fake news article and posts a link on their Facebook page. Someone else sees it and shares it. And it goes from there, and people don’t verify it before reposting.
We’re all responsible for the spread of the fake news if we don’t verify it and research it. Fake news isn’t new–tabloids and other newspapers and outlets have mastered the art of writing and distributing it for decades or more–it’s just easier to get out to more people these days, and easier to conceal whether the source is reputable or not.
It’s up to us to become a better consumer of our news.