Dissecting the Anatomy of an Online Fake News Post

Elections are coming, and misinformation begins to abound. From false social media posts to misinformation-filled Youtube videos, we know that the rise of fake news is an inevitable fact. Suppose you saw this post online:

“PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE IS DEAD.”

The problem with the human mind is that no matter how logical and unbiased it thinks it is, it is easily overwhelmed with the element of surprise and emotion. Orchestrated fake news sites take advantage of those emotions, easily outwitting anyone who chooses to be fooled. But is someone really too gullible to believe that the country’s foremost leader has already passed away?

Fake news isn’t as simple as this. They aren’t always striking headlines about the death of a political figure; but all of them employ various techniques to cause mischief. By learning about these ‘techniques’, you can intervene before the false information spreads like wildfire through social media platforms.

Senator BONG GO posted 3 hours ago: PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE IS DEAD.

Here’s a quite striking headline. Would you gasp on your seat, tell the news to a roommate, and hit the share button? No? Good. One method used by many fake news sites is to personify a reliable and compelling source to spread falsified details that may damage the credibility of institutions and personalities.

Believing false facts is already a form of media illiteracy, defined as the incapability to critically evaluate media to discern whether a piece of information given online is true or false. So, how do we stop being fooled by this scheme? If this was found in a  Facebook news feed, then one can simply check if there’s a blue check badge beside the author of the post. Otherwise, the ‘source’ isn’t as dependable as it claims to be. But what if it didn’t come from a Facebook post, and instead popped up from a web page or browser? What should you do? Analyze the whole article itself: Are grammatical errors scattered across the paragraphs? Does it flesh out numerical figures and comprehensive facts?

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE dies after inhaling CARCINOGENIC LEUKOCYTE in Sorsogon Clean-up.

How about this one? It makes mention of supporting details and is even equipped with a scientific term. So will you shriek in front of your desktop and right click the ‘forward’ button to send the urgent message to three thousand of your friends? No? How about the ‘leukocyte’ expression there? Aren’t you convinced? If not: good, you shouldn’t be. Leukocyte is the technical term for a white blood cell; it is not some chemical agent. This second method  is also crucial in fake news sites. They look up scientific and technical jargon, even though they don’t fully know (or even care to know) the relationship between these terms. With a simple search engine, and some common sense, you could easily distinguish which article is the real deal and which is a fraud.

17 FRIENDS SHARED BONG GO’s post: PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE dies after inhaling CARCINOGENIC ANTIGEN in Sorsogon Clean-up.

Would the thought of posting this seemingly trustworthy information on your timeline ever come to your mind? How about sending it to a group chat or emailing it to relatives faraway? 17 netizens seem to have confidence in the post, as seen evidently above. So why won’t you be persuaded? One social theory orbiting this dilemma is a phenomenon known as the Bandwagon effect, in which we are more likely to believe what our friends say. Research says that fake news supported by those we know are more likely to garner bias from our usually irrational minds. So if we see that many have shared a certain post, chances are, we would be intrigued by it.

Now, the real challenge begins. To verify the accuracy of the data, check on reliable sites: Inquirer, Philippine Star, Rappler, GMA, ABS-CBN, Snopes, etc. Determine whether the presented ‘facts’ are as truthful as they seem to be.

Fake news and false information are  spreading like wildfire. In fact, they spread faster than the fires, yet they do thrice the damage. They destroy the public’s confidence towards a person or an organization; they crush established integrity. In this information age, it is important to be armed with precautionary measures against fake news so that one may avoid illiteracy amidst crisis.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.