What is False Information?
Lots of things you read online especially in your social media feeds may appear to be true, often is not. False information is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. Usually, these stories are created to either influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers. False information can deceive people by looking like trusted websites or using similar names and web addresses to reputable news organisations.
The Rise of False Information
False information is not new, however it has become a hot topic since 2017. Traditionally we got our news from trusted sources, journalists and media outlets that are required to follow strict codes of practice. However, the internet has enabled a whole new way to publish, share and consume information and news with very little regulation or editorial standards.
Many people now get news from social media sites and networks and often it can be difficult to tell whether stories are credible or not. Information overload and a general lack of understanding about how the internet works by people has also contributed to an increase in fake news or hoax stories. Social media sites can play a big part in increasing the reach of these type of stories.
Types of False Information
There are differing opinions when it comes to identifying types of false information. However, when it comes to evaluating content online there are various types of false or misleading news we need to be aware of. These include:
These are stories that are deliberately fabricated to gain more website visitors and increase advertising revenue for websites. Clickbait stories use sensationalist headlines to grab attention and drive click-throughs to the publisher website, normally at the expense of truth or accuracy.
Stories that are created to deliberately mislead audiences, promote a biased point of view or particular political cause or agenda.
Lots of websites and social media accounts publish fake news stories for entertainment and parody. For example; The Onion.
4. Sloppy Journalism
Sometimes reporters journalists or organizations/companies may publish a story with unreliable information or without checking all of the facts which can mislead audiences. For example, during the U.S. elections, fashion retailer Urban Outfitters published an Election Day Guide, the guide contained incorrect information telling voters that they needed a ‘voter registration card’. This is not required by any state in the U.S. for voting.
5. Misleading Headings
Stories that are not completely false can be distorted using misleading or sensationalist headlines. These types of news can spread quickly on social media sites where only headlines and small snippets of the full article are displayed on audience newsfeeds. For example, about this article, Obama called Libyan President to thank him for expressing his condolences
6. Biased/Slanted News
Many people are drawn to news or stories that confirm their own beliefs or biases and fake news can prey on these biases. Social media news feeds tend to display news and articles that they think we will like based on our personalized searches.