Fake news is not a new concept, but the large amount of people believing things that are obviously false, is a new concept. The new calls and wishes for news sites to be censored has raised flags in regards to the first amendment. As technology has advanced in the past two decades, fake news has begun to move faster, in cycles of misinformation, because of social media platforms. Facebook, specifically, has been one of the top sharing websites around the nation.
It only takes minutes to read a headline and an excerpt, and only seconds to share it. The popularity of sharing news through social media became a worldwide trend when the assassination of Osama bin Laden was accidentally shared via Twitter in 2011. The Louisville Purge started through Twitter as well, and blew up overnight. High school students as well as parents on social media began to follow the trend and shared their opinions and concerns about the night.
With the immense shareability of content through the internet and the mirage of ‘catfish’ on social media, people have begun to believe a lot of what they see. For some, it is hard to tell the real news apart from the fake and false news. It is easier to just believe everything rather than to fact check.
Facebook has not yet owned up to the fact that it has become a major news distributor. Whether the content is raw, ‘on-scene’ facts, a full coverage story, or even false information, the outlet hasn’t made features to find credible news or even world events. Twitter, on the other hand, has. It has developed features that allow users to view the most popular tweets of the day, trending hashtags and world news.
Social media coverage has brought up the debate of the importance of getting the news right when it happens versus receiving it a few hours or a day later. Obviously, the most moral thing to do as a journalist is to report a full coverage story with all perspectives rather than just reporting facts of an event. According to the first element of journalism, truth, “good decision-making depends on people having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context.” With the social media debate, the different types of accounts are being discussed.
Satire social media accounts and ‘catfish’ accounts play a huge role in creating and spreading fake news. Some fake news actually starts as satire but gets twisted and people begin to believe that it is real.
Banning or censoring content won’t play an important role in our free society. It plays against the free society that Americans have worked so hard to create and sustain. Journalist’s main role is to fact check. So the question we need to be asking is, why are we trusting social media for our news and not the professionals?