In recent weeks, "fake news" has become a hot topic. In the recent US presidential elections, ‘fake news' involving both candidates and its possible influence on US voters' decision-making processes have been at the frontline of discussions.
2016-12-15 BIK team
The phenomenon is not unknown in the European political landscape either, with similar reports in Italy, Germany, the UK and Austria, which has also given rise to concerns at the EU level.
The main issue is how fake news can go viral very quickly. In late November, a Twitter user tweeted that CNN was airing porn and included a graphic image which included the CNN logo and visual identity. The moment the Drudge Report retweeted it, the (fake) news travelled fast with reports from reputed media including The New York Post, Mashable, and Variety corroborating the rumour. By the time CNN had denied it and proved the story was a hoax, millions of people had read and consumed the information.
The spread of ‘fake news' also affects tech companies. Recently, Facebook and Google have been under pressure to act fast to remove fake news from their sites, often created in order to gain advertising advantage. Indeed, in the case of Google, Google's recent search algorithm has increasingly ranked search results on how likely users are to click on them. Therefore, chances are the reason you are reading this article is because Google's ranking algorithm was able to determine that, according to your social shares, likes, or comments, this particular article is of interest to you.
We have access to information so quickly nowadays that, before fact-checking happens, the news has been shared, liked, retweeted and believed by millions of people. Even if we may hold criticism towards the media for their reporting methods or tech companies for their lack of response when ‘fake news' is available on their sites, our only ally ultimately is our self-judgement and critical thinking. Therefore, media literacy has become our most important instrument to distinguish professional news-gathering from amateur rumour-mongering.
In the Better Internet for Kids resource gallery, you'll find a range of resources produced by the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres in the topic of media literacy.
Find out more information about media literacy in the sixth edition of our Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin.