In the Beginning... the Ramp Up of Fake News
Fake news became a hot topic during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, when it was reported that a group of enterprising Macedonian teenagers had created over 100 websites containing false information about American politics. This information was shared hundreds of thousands of times by Facebook users who believed it to be true. Did all this fake news influence voters enough to affect the election results? The experts have differing opinions on that, but one thing's for sure:
When you have to make an important decision, you do not want that decision to be based on fake news.
Plus, sharing fake news can damage your credibility. Even the smartest people get fooled sometimes, but the more often you share information that turns out to be false, the harder it will be for your friends and followers (not to mention your teachers and employers) to take you seriously.
The Macedonian teenagers are not, of course, the first people ever to spread fake news, and they won't be the last. Fake news isn't going away any time soon, and it isn't the only problem. Information that isn't fake can still be misleading or misinterpreted.
Think you know how to tell if something's fake?
You might want to think again. In 2016, researchers at Stanford University found that when it comes to judging the credibility of online information, "otherwise digital-savvy students can be easily duped."
So what can we do?
Since the election, companies like Google and Facebook have taken steps toward reducing the amount of fake news on their sites. It's a start, but if you really want to avoid fake news and misleading information, you have to take some of the responsibility yourself. How? By learning to think critically about the information you encounter, and by taking the time to verify information before using or sharing it. The links on this page can help.