Understanding Fake News

Updated: Feb 28


Fake news is a form of news created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers, that are typically spread via traditional or online media (eg. print, broadcast, Whatsapp or Facebook). Although rumours and hoax stories have existed long before the advent of the Internet, “fake news” has only recently become a hot topic - this term was actually popularised by President Donald Trump during the 2016 US elections. However, his use of this term did not necessarily refer to made-up news, but rather, of unfavourable coverage against his own political interests (i.e. opinions he disagreed with).


Traditionally, we get our news from journalists and trusted media outlets that are required to follow strict codes of practice. However, the Internet has revolutionised the way we publish, share and consume information and news. In an age where “content is king”, there is little regulation and editorial standards, which allows for misinformation to seep through.


Two words: Lying sells.


The more clicks a news article can get, the more money that the publisher can earn. Besides doing it for cash, other reasons include pushing political agendas, hurting a person or group’s reputation, or even just to troll others.


Very jialat. In 2019, the top 100 political fake news stories on Facebook were viewed over 150 million times.


We make decisions and form ideas and opinions through the information we receive. However, if this information is false, invented, exaggerated or distorted, we can’t make good decisions or form unbiased opinions.


Many people now get their news from social networking sites and it can often be difficult to discern whether something is credible or not. Information overload, a lack of prior knowledge towards the topic at hand, as well as a lack of understanding of how the Internet works have all contributed to the increase in the spreading of fake news.


In a 2018 survey, 8 in 10 Singaporeans were at least ‘somewhat confident’ in their ability to spot fake news. However, when presented with 5 fake headlines, 91% of the participants wrongly identified one or more as real.


Seems like spotting fake news can be trickier than we thought!


Not to worry, there are still ways around this! While we may have good intentions of wanting to warn or protect our loved ones whenever we receive an alarming message, it is important for us to be mindful of the effects of spreading false information, which can lead to more harm than benefit.


A study found that the more you encounter a piece of fake news, the more believable it becomes, and the more likely you are to pass it on. Ultimately, the power and influence that a piece of news can have lies in the people that consume and share it!


Sure Anot, a campaign that aims to combat fake news, developed a three-step routine that you can take when you encounter a dubious message:

  1. Don't Forward First

  2. Ask "Sure Anot?"

  3. Check Ah!


When you are faced with a message you are unsure about, the best thing you can always do first is to not forward it. Following that, you should also raise questions and voice any doubts you may have with the sender.


The last step, Check Ah, is to fact-check the information with legitimate and trusted sources.


A fact-checking mechanism that you can consider is the Reverse Image Search:

  1. Enter images.google.com in your URL bar

  2. Find the file you wish to search, click and drag into the search bar to find it

  3. Evaluate your findings: if this photo was posted previously, you will likely find its original source

From doing so, you can find out if the photo has been manipulated or taken out of context from a separate incident.


However, we understand that fact-checking is more technologically advanced and can be difficult to perform. Not to worry; carrying out the first two steps of not forwarding and raising doubt already goes a long way in the fight against fake news!


Also, if you've ever wanted someone to help you fact-check any messages you're unsure about, here is your chance - Sure Anot joined with Black Dot Research, an independent fact-checking organisation, and started a WhatsApp group where you can verify the authenticity of dubious messages you receive. Click the link to join here:

https://chat.whatsapp.com/ETW4jTdfiJP5XibO6ctZ6V


Always remember to stay on guard and not believe whatever we read so easily!

(Source: Politifact, Straits Times, Forbes, Economic Times, Webwise)