By Wesley Whittlesey
Growing up, I was typically a boy who would stay away from the news and politics. To me, reading the news seemed like it was merely people wanting to get any kind of story published for a profit and so these individuals would bend the facts to help the story sell better. Because of my perception of the news, I found it easier just to trust what I knew for myself. But as I grew up, I realized that when it came to journalism there were articles that published facts to inform the population, articles that expressed opinions, and articles that bent the truth to sell a good story.
In light of the recent presidential election, the problem of fake news articles has become especially prevalent in today’s social media. According to The Huffington Post, fake news is referred to as stories that are often created by entities pretending to be news organizations solely to attract views based
upon questionable and misleading or false substance. Fake news websites often publish hoaxes, propaganda, and other false information that claim to be genuine news, and they often use social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. Many of these websites often seek to mislead (rather than entertain and or mock as satirical websites) readers for financial, political, or other gain. An example of these websites, according to the Daily Dot, is the website Empire News, which contained many fake news hoaxes that were widely shared on social media, with stories based upon social or political controversies or conspiracies. These hoaxes were appalling to many readers, which resulted in even more views.
Individuals who read the news on the internet might think to themselves, “I will for sure be able to tell fake news apart from real news!” or “I will never fall for a story that is so blatantly fake!” But the reality is that people are indeed believing these fabricated stories. The high emotions that have run throughout the course of the election, and the resulting increase of activity on social media, have resulted in higher likelihood for individuals to believe and share fake news websites and articles. A study done by Stanford University showed that in the three months before the 2016 Presidential Election, pro-Trump fabricated stories were shared a total of 30 million times, nearly quadruple the number of fabricated pro-Clinton shares.
The question now is why are people reading these stories and more likely to believe them? What leads watchers and readers to believe stories and articles that are created to mislead and misinform the public?