Social media platforms have been used recently for many purposes other than entertaining, communicating, stalking, or even working “fashion blogger, food stylist, etc.” To illustrate, many people are using social media platforms as a source to get daily news instead of newspapers or reliable news sites. The problem with doing this is that publishing fake news in any social media platform is extremely easy, and spreading them out quickly is much easier. Fake news phenomenon is taking place for different reasons, and it might lead to dangerous consequences. Thus, there are many people who try to develop various ways to fight this phenomena.
I personally was exposed to this topic for the first time in the Mozilla Internet Health Report class presentation. In this presentation, Nermeen, Nadine, and I worked on introducing the Fake News topic to our classmates by testing their ability in differentiating between real and fake materials. Therefore, we started our presentation with a small game where we got some pictures that went viral on Facebook and other social media platforms; some are real and some are fake, then we made our classmates guess whether these pictures are real or fake. Most of our classmates couldn’t make right guesses at all. Instead, they tended to believe any piece of news that came across their pages without checking for its reliability and credibility.
One of the reasons why some people don’t question what they read on the internet is that they don’t know the reasons behind raising fake news. For instance, in one of our classes, the professor showed us a fake video named trump “sea of love” and asked us to comment on it. I personally couldn’t predict that this video was fake, as I believed that the Dr. wouldn’t show us fake materials. However, there are several reasons behind faking news such as propaganda campaigns, political purposes, or even making profits. Most of the time fake news are designed to target different people with different tastes, so people get attracted to open the fake news which match their interests and find ads popping up for them causing profits for the companies.
An example for the people who use fake news for political purposes are the fake news raised during 2016 elections in the USA. It was basically when Trump campaigners decided to fake a scandal for Hilary Clinton to make her lose many of her supporters and voters. Apparently it worked, as Clinton lost many of her voters after she was surrounded by these fake news. This was such a strong proof that the fake news have a great power in changing situations from winning to losing and vice versa.
That is why Amanda Warner created an educational game “Fake It To Make It” where the players are required to design fake website to share fake news and they gain money from it. Warner wanted to educate people about how serious the fake news phenomenon is, and to show them one of the reasons behind sharing fake news. Thus, when people play this game and find out how easy creating a fake website is, they would be more aware of the problem. I personally tried the game and got 68 points out of 100 after sharing only one article, so now I can imagine how many fake websites I open everyday.
Fake It To Make It was not the only game designed for this purpose, there is also a game called Bad news which makes the players tweet fake news while measuring the credibility and the number of followers based on their choices. This game made me realize that there might be a lot of famous bloggers who started gaining followers through tweeting fake news and unreliable information.
These games were not the only attempt that meant to increase awareness about this phenomenon and fight it, but also there are the “Four Moves” which we learned about in class which can help us to check the credibility of any source we use. The four moves are actually the four steps that one can take to check the reliability of any source. The first move is to check for previous work which was reviewed before or provided a synthesis of research, so reusing the information would be supported with the previous reliable sources used. The second move is going upstream to the source, which means checking for the original source where the information were taken from to make sure that the content is taken from credible and reliable source. Then, the third step is to read laterally to know what people say about the used source “the author, publication”. Finally, the last move is to circle back or to start over using different search terms and better choices.
Another activity that we did in class while working on the fake news theme is when the Dr. got us three news and asked us to pick one and to check its reliability. The professor gave us this activity in order to apply the four moves method we learned in class. I picked the news “Is the Sun “going to sleep” in 2020?” and went for Google search engine. I found articles on Dailymail and National geographic which mentioned that the sun is going through minimum in 2019 and 2020, but the news itself were fake.
This was not the only activity we tried in class, the professor also shared with us an Egyptian article which we were required to assess its credibility. After reading the first line, I realized that the article is translated and taken from another source. The original source was a study made by Paul Hosford and published by The Journal. Looking for the original source was an application for the second move of the four moves which is “Go upstream to the source”. After finding the original source, we only had to check the credibility of the website, look at the previous work of the journal and the author as well.
The last activity we did in class concerning this theme was when the professor divided us into groups and gave each group an article to find out whether these articles are fake or not. In this activity, the Dr. wanted us to use different method to differentiate between fake and real news. The method was basically using some websites which automatically check for the news after the users type the title of the articles. Some of the examples on these websites are Snopes and Hoax Busters which were introduced to by our professor to try them on the articles given.
As mentioned before, faking news is such an easy step to take. That is why Sarah Abouelkhair or the “NASA girl”, a student in AUC, made real social experiment which proves that anyone can fake news for the sake of fame. Sarah used her personal Instagram account to share photoshopped stories which reveal that she has been contacting NASA for a huge project. Then, she went further faking other messages from large institutions and celebrities such as SpaceX, Buzzfeed, Netflix, Ellen, ..etc. After short period of time, her FAKE content went viral on different social media platforms and real journals started to publish her fake story. Finally, the NASA girl revealed her social experiment about people who fake news, but there are many other social media users who don’t reveal the fake content they share and use. Thus, people should get the message behind what Sarah did and become more skeptical when they look over any content on the internet.