Can We Trust Social Media News?


How do we identify fake news in the media?(Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

When’s the last time that you read an outrageous headline such as “Pelosi Diverts $2.4 Billion From Social Security To Cover Impeachment Costs” or “Trump is Now Trying to Get Mike Pence Impeached,” and reacted with utter shock at the revelation? Well, you’re not alone, as, according to Business Insider, these headlines were plastered onto the screens of a sizable portion of Facebook’s 2 billion users, making the list as two of the “Top Ten Most Viewed Fake News Stories on Facebook in 2019.” With posts such as these spreading like wildfire, garnering over 155 thousand views and shares, it begs an important question: “can we trust social media news?” 

In order to answer this question, we must discern the true meaning of fake news and how to identify it within modern media. Fake news is classified into two categories: misinformation and disinformation. According to an Indiana University study, misinformation refers to “false or misleading content including hoaxes, conspiracy theories, fabricated reports, and even satire.” However, misinformation is also classified as the inadvertent spread of this false information, rendering it less harmful than its counterpart, disinformation. While disinformation also refers to false and misleading content, it is driven by purposeful deception, rendering it unethical.

Additionally, as social media platforms are available to the public, all users have the ability to create and post content that has not been reviewed, fact-checked, and properly sourced. For this reason, many users have fallen into the trap of believing in these authors wholeheartedly without knowing if the content that is released is valid.

In addition to establishing the primary forms of fake news, it is vital to understand the goals and intentions behind such posts. In other words, why do authors publish such deceitful and inaccurate content? Inaccurate content is permitted to proliferate because social media companies are more concerned with their profit margins than with ensuring the accuracy of the information propagated on their platforms. Social media platforms profit off of selling user data, which explains the seemingly perfectly designed social media feeds and posts that suit each and every user’s tastes. For this reason, when scrolling through your recommended page, remember that the news that you are receiving has not been vetted in the same way that a genuine news article has, so always do deeper research before truly believing in these sources.

In regards to spotting and combating fake news, some of the first steps that you can take are checking the author’s sources for validity and credibility. When reading through the article and its sources, try asking yourself some questions such as, “What is the purpose of this post? Who is its intended audience? Are the sources reputable?” Additionally, in order to truly gain a well-rounded understanding and perspective, aim to always search for and read through more than one source regarding that specific topic. This way, you will have the opportunity to comprehend disparate points of view on the same issues at hand, diversifying the narratives you absorb on the topic.

The next time you come across a social media post claiming to offer “breaking news,” keep these tips in mind and remember to always check your sources and do deeper research before adopting a decisive outlook on the issue at hand.