Fake News-2016 Election

It’s no doubt that fake news played a huge role in the 2016 election and almost every day there are more reports about the way fake news has flourished.  Fact checking has always been part of election media processes, but Donald Trump has taken the whole telling untruths to a new level. Whatever you thought of the candidates policies and personalities, it is indisputable that Trump brought the art of using lies to garner votes to an unprecedented level.  In fact on Politifact, it states that out of the 343 things he said, 239 of them were mostly false or completely false.  Trump has not only generated multiple false stories, he has also attacked the media as distorting and promoting dishonest information.  Trump’s whole “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary…”(a direct quote from Trump’s Twitter page), has influenced many citizen’s view of media.  Trump utilized the fact that whatever he said would be believed by his supporters.  It wasn’t only Trump that promoted false stories although his dramatic often unfounded claims are  probably the most well known.  Fake news stories have found a home on the internet on sites like Facebook where much of the younger generations now go for their news. , On these new social media platforms, it is easy to make fake news appear legitimate and the code of ethics that govern reputable news agencies follow has been thrown out the window.

Since society is so swept up in social media, the spread of fake news has become rapid.  Now more than ever, it’s essential for people to know how to identify what’s true and what’s false.  Even though this has been a problem with journalism for decades, it has become more apparent in the 2016 Presidential Election.  Whether it was claiming that Clinton and Podesta had been running a child pornography ring out of the back of a pizza place, or that Trump claimed that Obama had created Isis, the impact these fake stories had on the trust and impressions of people was real and devastating.  These allegations became a big factor in the way citizens voted.  Some people, not knowing that there is a lot of “fake news”, didn’t check the source of news and ended up believing what they read.

Social Media’s Effect

Social media, i.e. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., has been rapidly increasing in the past 4 years.  Since the last presidential election, due to the proliferation of smartphones, news from social media has increased.  Journalism.org’s research has shown that 62% of people get their news from social media.  Now, since “fake” news has become more apparent, people are constantly getting false information from social media.  Some candidates grasped the effectiveness of this tool of social media.  In particular Donald Trump’s campaign used Twitter to reach millions of followers and in that way, he quickly got his message out without being challenged or questioned.  If someone were to read some things Trump has said on his Twitter, it would be easy to get swept up in all the “facts” he gives.  Since more and more people don’t do research on the news, they read or hear Trumps tweets and would more likely believe it.  It’s easy for many to get swept up in information from the Internet, and in this day and age, the reliability of sources and facts is hard to determine. People who don’t check the source of the news they read, end up not realizing that it’s fake news.  Trump’s supporters represent a less educated segment of the population (59% fall into the uneducated category) and they believed everything that was negative about Hillary Clinton that they read.  Trump has been able to reach his base through social media in an unchallenged way.  Once he releases a controversial tweet, his message is further perpetuated by the regular press and then he reaches even a wider audience.  Clinton’s campaign used social media in a more modest way- referring to policy or other issues that were not controversial and by tweeting about events or news that was available already in mainstream media.  A democracy can only be truly functional if all its members are empowered to vote and educated about how policy will affect their life.

Prejudiced Towards Reporters/ Role of Journalists

Journalist’s job is to collect information and then report it to the public.  In this election, Trump viewed journalists as corrupt, biased, and full of fake news unnamed-7(ironically).  Due to Trump’s hatred towards journalists, his supporters started to have the same prejudice.  Local  WCSH 6 News Center reporter Kristina Rex, said, “Crowds would turn around and boo the photographers, writers, and reporters standing on the risers at his rallies. There is no doubt that that was not fun. It was a unique experience, something that no other politician has done.”  Trump’s hatred towards the media hasn’t ended post election results.  He continues, as the president elect, to say that the media spreads biased information against him.  This is evident since Trump doesn’t respond to news centers that are fact checking and reporting factually about him.

It’s important for news sources to create unbiased news, and especially in a divided country.  Rex , said, “In my opinion, in the news, it’s our job to find the truth to every story.  Take both sides of a story, and find the truth. If Hillary deleted 33,000 emails?  We report it.  If Donald Trump mocked a disabled man?  We report it.  Some call us ‘biased’ towards the ‘left’ because we reported so much about Trump controversies. In my opinion, that’s because there were a lot of Trump controversies, not beca

use we were biased against him…  But when Trump used to blame the ‘horrible biased media,’ in my opinion, that is just because he didn’t like news coverage of things he had done. The news stations don’t invent what happens, the news stations report it.”

It is essential that citizens look at this election as a lesson in our responsibility to educate ourselves and to evaluate sources, especially on social media.  More so, news organizations need to be allowed access to the truth and freedom to express it as well as provide all of the facts of our government.

As social media users, there needs to be personal accountability and some reconciliation about what effect we had on politics and the veracity of what we are retweeting or posting on facebook.  The freedom to say whatever you want is a fundamental right as an American but with it comes a huge responsibility that what we spread is true.

How to Identify “Fake” News

Due to the fact that there is a lot of fake news on social media, people read something, and don’t realize it’s false.  For example, Daniella Sirois, a senior, read on twitter that the Great Barrier Reef is declared dead.  Even though the reef is dying, it’s not completely dead.  She then went to her dad and told him what she had read, but her father quickly realized that what she read was fake.  Another example is Amanda Cyr, also a senior, said that she saw somewhere that there was an alligator that was 25 feet long.  Cyr moving quickly through twitter, read it, believed it.  While many of these silly stories are without consequence (aside from the embarrassment of retelling an untrue story and looking foolish) and are designed as click bait to get as many people as possible to follow a story, some fake news dramatically affects the effectiveness of our democracy. So it is up to our generation to learn to identify it and dig deeper.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the nonsense on social media.  To take action on this topic, Facebook and Google announced that they’ll crack down on fake new sites, by restricting their ability to put information in ads.

Image converted using ifftoanyAnother helpful tool is how to identify fake news.  Factcheck.org gives some tips on how to realize what’s real and what’s fake.  Their advice is first to consider where you’re getting your information.  They suggest that if you got know the source, then move on.  Then you should read beyond the headline.  They say “If a provocative headline drew your attention, read a little further before you decide to pass along the shocking information.”  Although many don’t know the name of the author, this can help you know if the news is real or not.  Then they say that finding the support is one of the most important parts.  Some fake news stories site sources that look real, but once some research is done, it’s clearly false.  Some news stories aren’t completely false, but are stretched of the truth.  If you check the date, it can help identify if it’s real or fake.

A lot of people don’t have time to do all those searches just to find out if something is true or not, but when it’s going to affect the way you vote, it’s vital that you check the source.

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