Exposing fake news in Greece

  • Awareness
  • 29/06/2017
  • Greek Safer Internet Centre

The June 2017 edition of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin focuses on the highly topical issue of fake news. Here, the Greek Safer Internet Centre (SIC), SaferInternet4Kids – Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas, shares some insights into the phenomenon in the country and how fake news is being exposed.

The spread of fake news has always been a common phenomenon online. However, with the prevalence and popularity of social media services, the distribution of fake news has developed into a real epidemic. Fake news stories, even those that obviously do not contain a trace of reality or even logic, are now transmitted at the speed of light in cyberspace via social media, unfortunately resulting in them being further shared and believed. Popular Greek newsgroups not only have the battle of delivering the news, but also the battle of certifying the news. Organisations such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Wikipedia have announced their own efforts to limit the problem.

Political considerations, conspiracy, interests, naivety or even satire are often hidden behind carefully crafted fake news stories, while there are many who even see fake news as an attempt to control or silence information. Social media facilitates the wide spread of information with unseen speed. Considering the fact that more than half of Greeks now receive their news via social media, it is worrying that research shows that young people, especially, face difficulties in differentiating real from fake news. This fact has also been highlighted by the European Parliament.

Therefore, each one of us must check the source of the information we receive: understand the mission of the specific media and its aims, analyse further what is written, check the identity of the writer (whether he or she actually exists and is reliable, uses references to actual persons, cross references the information, or controls the date of publication of the news), and compare various news sources before drawing conclusions. The key issue here is the cultivation of our critical thinking.

Detecting fake news
Fake news is both a challenge and an opportunity. A young student from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, Valentinos Tzakas, aspires to put an end to fake and misleading news on the internet and, as such, has created a program with parameters and a separate algorithm for instant detection of misleading news. In an interview with the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency, he said that the FightHoax.com algorithm has the ability to "scan" in seconds any kind of information written on the internet, concluding if it is misleading news.

FightHoax is a multi-tool that analyses news articles and shows how trusted it is. Fighthoax's solution is to help journalists and everyday people analyse and get relevant useful information about any news item within seconds. It can also help fact checkers improve their work to properly combat mass misinformation. Thus, with the help of search engines, it can perform bulk scans across the web to identify fake news publishers, to offer better search results and, with the help of social networks, it can alert users if the text they read is false or not.

FightHoax initially analyses the story and the reputation of the website hosting the news article. Is the page known for writing a lot of fake news like abcnews.com.co, is it a website known for publishing trusted articles such as the ones of the Associated Press, or is it something more in the middle like Fox News or the Daily Mail? Fighthoax then analyses the article's editor and the story. Is it someone with a trusted past in reputable news agencies, a university professor or someone with no active history in the news industry? Last, but not least, Fighthoax analyses the article. It compares every tiny detail of the article with more credible articles on the same subject. Fighthoax reads and understands the article as a human being. It scans the entire web, like a database, in seconds. Are there any significant differences with other articles covering the same event? Does the article have enough information to compare? Is the written language good? These are the three main pillars of Fighthoax.

Debunking hoaxes
On a similar note, Thodoris Daniilidis, a journalist from Thessaloniki is the founder of ellinikahoaxes.gr, which is a pioneering Greek team on the web that reveals – with evidence – fake news circulating in cyberspace. There are many well-organised pages dealing with hoaxes abroad, but there was no equivalent website in Greece. Greek hoaxes website was created four years ago, the page traffic reaches about 40,000 users per day and the age of the users ranges from 25 to 50 years. The aim, according to Mr Daniilidis, is to highlight the bulk of fake news on the internet so that the user can begin to treat each news item critically.

How to recognise fake news on the internet
Stanford University's new research reveals that children and adolescents cannot tell which of the news they read on social media is true and which is false. It is therefore imperative that young people learn to use critical thinking which can only be achieved through better home and school education. Find out more about the Greek Safer Internet Centre's approach to education in its downloadable presentation on the topic.

Find out more about the work of the Greek Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

Alternatively, find the contact details for your national Safer Internet Centre here.


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