IS WIDE CHOICE, WISE CHOICE? /FAKE NEWS AND FACEBOOK
The essay prompt is for this assignment is as follows. In this information age, it is more important than ever to use credible and reliable sources.
You are given the choice of two focus areas:
- The 2016 US election – alternative facts and the post-truth world.
- Fake news and Facebook.
IS WIDE CHOICE, WISE CHOICE? /FAKE NEWS AND FACEBOOK
The advent of digital media has made it easier for people to conduct research. The old ways of going into a library and using books and magazines to gather information are slowly making way for the internet. It is quick and easy to log into a computer and get whatever information at the click of some buttons. The generation of today is focused on efficiency and convenience, and hence this method is here to stay. Society is becoming increasingly reliant on information that is accessed on the internet since it has become like one massive database that contains everything. However, anybody can upload information on the web since there are no restrictions (Metzger & Flanagin, 2013). This accessibility has created a situation where some of the information on the various online sources is not accurate. When conducting research, it is crucial to utilise accurate information and ensure the credibility of the sources. It has become necessary for individuals to determine the accuracy of their sources. Availability of the internet has accelerated the spread of fake news due to the high demand for information.
The high demand for information has resulted in abundant supply. The Internet has encouraged the provision of this information due to the ease of accessing and publishing information. Before the web, producing and disseminating information was an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. People who posted information were required to have some expertise in the topic and command considerable resources for the work (Metzger & Flanagin, 2013). The Internet has eliminated all these issues making it quick and cheap to post information. Since the information made available on the web does not undergo any verification in authentication, there is a proliferation of outdated, inaccurate and incomplete data. Anybody can post what they consider to be factual but there is nobody to verify the information and certify it as being accurate. Traditionally, credibility to post information was given to proven bodies or the government, and it acted as an effective way of filtering information to allow only those who have earned the merit to post (Metzger & Flanagin, 2013). This high barrier was able to lock out people who don’t have the necessary authority to write on a particular issue. Social sites like Facebook allow anybody to own an account and post information, and sometimes it has misled people due to inaccuracy. It is important to use some of the criterion suggested by Metzger to determine the authenticity of a website. The reputation heuristic, for example, considers the name recognition of a site as a clue to its authenticity.
Facebook is enjoyed by millions of people, and some people will take advantage to spread misinformation. A recent story on a fake Denver Guardian account posted a false story on Hillary Clinton, and it was shared widely on Facebook. The account was fake, and there is no newspaper like the Denver Guardian. However, the information was already out, and it is evident that some people believed it and made their conclusions. The ease of posting information online has led to the development of a misleading form of journalism called fake news. These fake news websites have increased, and they take advantage of gullible people who will believe the authenticity of their sites. It has become vital to double-check sources and ensure that they can be verified. According to Metzger, the endorsement heuristic makes people believe information because some other people do or it has been presented in a manner that is considered authoritative. Like the case of the Denver Guardian, there is no such publication, but the fact that it appeared in the form of an online newspaper made it believable. This case shows that people ought to know more about online sources since some people will use false information to trick people and drive traffic to their websites.
Sites like Facebook are prone to fake news because there is a collection of people and hence it is easy to grab their attention with particular headlines. There is a new trend on Facebook and other sites like Google and YouTube where they study their internet history and customise the items that appear randomly in an individual’s news feed. Most of the Millennials visit Facebook and other social sites to get most of their information regarding various issues like politics and health etc. Facebook will use filter bubbles to curate the information that appears in people’s news feeds (Metzger, & Flanagin, 2013). They look at the history of likes, searches and conversations to form an algorithm that offers the same opinions on every search. Essentially, a person is exposed to the same category of information in all the time they spend on Facebook. For example, if one is a Democrat, they are going to receive articles that are pro-Democrat on their pages. This trend limits the amount of exposure since people are not able to compare opinions by looking at different views. Facebook users end up developing tunnel vision and believing in one view of things without considering the other. Therefore, people form decisions based on incomplete decisions due to the company’s decision to customise the feeds.
Metzger conducted a study that showed the popularity of cognitive heuristics in the determination of credibility. People use some heuristics to interpret information and authenticate a particular source.
Reputation heuristic- a website with a reputable name becomes an immediate consideration for authenticity. If the source is a reputable or popular organisation, most of the people in this category will consider the information authentic (Metzger & Flanagin, 2013).
Endorsement heuristic- people will believe a particular source if other people vouch for its authenticity (Metzger & Flanagin, 2013). People will agree with the individuals they like and admire as observed in the social behaviour of humans. People share many links and websites on Facebook.
Consistency heuristic- in this method, individuals look at several sites to determine whether the information is consistent and then come to a conclusion. It the information is similar, the source is considered credible. Checking for consistency involves some effort, but it is not an absolute method for determining credibility (Harris, 2015).
Self-confirmation heuristic- people will believe a source if the information contained is similar to certain preexisting beliefs. This bias affects the judgement of credibility, and hence it is a poor method of confirming a source (Metzger & Flanagin, 2013).
Expectancy violation heuristic- a website has to meet a person’s expectations for it to be considered credible. For example, a source full of typing errors and poor grammar will be judged negatively on the credibility scale. They decide a source quickly without considering the intricate details and information within.
Persuasive intent- people assume that any biased information is not to be trusted (Harris, 2015). For example, some people will dismiss advertisements and consider them a way of manipulation. They dismiss any information from biased sources without taking into account to read through and understand the contents.
How to ensure sources are credible
There are certain things to look out for and confirm the authenticity of an online source:
- Author- if someone is willing to attach their name and claim responsibility is a good indication that a source is authentic (Harris, 2015).
- Date- the inclusion of a date allows the reader to determine how old and relevant the information is, relevant to their study.
- Sources- credible websites will cite the areas they got their information from and that shows that one can back up the facts and confirm on the authenticity.
- Domain name- certain domains lie .gov and .edu refer to government and university sources, respectively, and hence they are considered as credible. Other domain names can be given to anyone.
- Design – this method is subjective and somewhat biased. If a website is well designed, it shows the owners went to great lengths to improve the reading proceed.
- Writing style- incorrect spelling and poor grammar are indicators of a poor source. Credible sites are very keen to make sure they observe excellent writing skills.
It is important to avoid sources that have fake news
and the best way to do it is by learning how they are identified. Fake news on
Facebook or other sites causes people to make conclusions based on falsehoods
and this can be damaging. For example, the use
of filter bubbles to dictate information leads to tunnel vision that may cause
people to make decisions based on incomplete information. In the case
of research, credible sites will lend authenticity to thee project since they
are considered as excellent sources. People on social media ought to be careful
not to fall in the trap of tunnel thinking caused by filter bundles and other
fake news websites by anonymous people.
Harris, R. (2015). Evaluating Internet Research Sources. Virtualsalt.com. Retrieved 11 May 2017, from http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm
Metzger, M., & Flanagin, A. (2013). Credibility and trust of information in online environments: The use of cognitive heuristics. Journal Of Pragmatics, 59, 210-220. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2013.07.012