The Real Problem Of Fake News


Did you know that the Pope has said we need to take away all guns, and that the White House cleaning staff found a stash of Obama’s drugs? 

Those are just two of hundreds of thousands of recent fake news stories. 

What’s sad is that many of these lies spread faster than the truth on social media. 

So what can you do to be well-informed, and why is it so important? 

Rebecca Johnson and Raven Engelbrecht are catching up over coffee before Engelbrecht moves from Sioux Falls to Alaska.

“I’m going to go to school and make that money, I think,” Engelbrecht said.

Of course, those conversations also involve information they find on social media. The 20 year olds say they get most of their news online.

“Kind of honestly through the Facebook feed or whatever pops up. I go to the website sometimes if something catches my eye,” Johnson said.

When it comes to social media, you need to be careful about what you believe. 

According to research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fake news is 70 percent more likely to be shared on Twitter than the truth.

“If I find it interesting, I will go outside of social media to find that story if it exists. Often times it doesn’t exist,” Jim Paulson said.

Paulson is a former South Dakota State journalism professor, reporter and news director.

“Keep in mind that the minute you share something, you are now the publisher. It’s your reputation online,” Paulson said.

So what can you do to make sure you’re not spreading lies? First of all, check who wrote the article or post. There are many sites that masquerade as actual media organizations to mislead the public.

“If you don’t know where the information came from, and you don’t check it out, then essentially you haven’t done your job as a responsible user of social media,” Paulson said.

Also keep in mind that on social media you’re often just getting the information that your family and friends agree with. That’s different than watching a 30 minute newscast or flipping through a newspaper.

“We don’t like to see information that goes against our beliefs, but we will share information that reinforces what we believe,” Paulson said.

You might not think the spread of misinformation is that big of a deal, but Paulson argues differently. 

“It affects our families. It affects decisions we make about what we do and what we don’t do. If we have bad information, then we’re going to make bad decisions,” Paulson said.

To prevent those bad decisions, Johnson and Engelbrecht say they now plan to become more aware of the real problem of fake news.

“Just so I know where it’s coming from and what I’m reading,” Johnson said.

Steps to stop the spread of misinformation that could threaten our democracy.

Facebook is also taking steps to try to stop the spread of inaccurate information. The site started fact-checking last spring and continues to expand the program. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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