Online Facts vs. Fiction

Krynica Poland - November 03, 2016 . Popular social media app isons: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other on smart phone screen close up.

When will we ever learn? You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet!

Facebook was recently accused of publishing fake stories on its newsfeed that tilted the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. Earlier this year, the social media giant decided to do away with human editors and replace them with algorithms for their newsfeeds. Within hours of making this announcement, a phony news story appeared at the top of the site’s trending news section.

But Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t believe the fake reports had much influence at all. Even while admitting that some improvements are needed, he insists that 99% of what users see is authentic. He states, “Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics.”

Whether the posts were good, bad or fake, some clearly believe it made a difference in the election outcome. President-Elect Trump himself praised the role of social media in his campaign victory. In a “60 Minutes” appearance he stated, “I think it helped me win all of these races, where they’re spending much more money than I spent.”

We can all admit that we tend to abandon the more tried-and-true, reputable news sources for the convenience of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, but it is critical that information is properly vetted in order for us to make informed decisions.

Be willing to be inconvenienced, just a bit. Instead of “liking” a story or retweeting it immediately, first check out the tidbit on snopes.com, politifact.com or factcheck.org. All of these sites do the dirty digging for you, and most can be accessed directly through Twitter. You can even personally ask a question to be researched for you. Valuable tools like these can help you get the facts straight.

There’s so much information available out there—and so readily at your fingertips—it’s easy to get swept up in a wave of untruths. So keep your wits about you and take the time to separate the facts from fiction.

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