How to spot
What is fake news?
According to Collins Dictionary, fake news is false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting. The New York Times defines it as made-up stories with the intention to deceive, often geared toward getting clicks.
More recently, people have begun using the term “fake news” to dismiss information they do not agree with.
In-depth coverage of the 2019 Canadian federal election
How fake news hurts
Fake news is not a new reality, but two key things are impacting the current landscape of untruths.
First is an increase in the number of people, politicians and fake news sites denying facts, misrepresenting information, and undermining the credibility of journalists and media outlets.
Second, the shareability of content on social media makes it easier for misinformation to spread from screen to screen, and reader to reader, at a rapid pace.
Fake news misleads and misinforms. It is seen as a threat to democracy and free debate. According to a recent Pew Research Centre study in the U.S., many Americans say made-up news and information greatly impacts people’s confidence in government institutions. About half (54%) say it is having a major impact on our confidence in each other.
Fake news and the 2019 Canadian federal election
The 2016 presidential election in the US brought the current realities of fake news into focus. From hoaxes, to fake accounts, and the spread of misinformation (including incorrect voting dates), the New York Times reported a variety of ways misinformation showed up on voting day.
Buzzfeed’s analysis of fake news during the last US presidential campaign, suggests that the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post.
There is no reason to believe we won’t be bombarded with misinformation and fake news ahead of the October 21 federal election.
What you can do about fake news
While the debate continues as to how journalists and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter will respond to online misinformation, media consumers play an important role in the fake news drama. Some high schools are teaching media literacy courses focused on helping students spot fake news, and media outlets and libraries are sharing resources to help readers develop critical media skills.