Breaking news: LIVE dinosaur discovered in the new Burke Museum! Click to read more.

Deciphering between fake and real news falls on consumers

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fake news

Sike.  

That was a lie. It’s obviously fake news. The Daily has been covering the Burke a lot though, and wouldn’t a live dinosaur be the best possible advertising? Also, it got you to click on this article, just to see what the heck it could be about. 

As a casual user of social media, I often see clickbait headlines not so different from this one on a live dinosaur. I don’t normally click on articles like this, but I do use social media to get a lot of my news and I’m guilty for not always checking other sources.  

But why should I have to? I don’t understand why the responsibility to determine whether or not something is true falls on the consumer of the news as opposed to the news organization or social media platform it’s published to. If I want to stay informed, I don’t want to have to read four different news stories on the same topic and cross reference my sources. I just want to be able to read an article and move on with my life armed with correct information. 

There are tons of articles and resources online to help people combat “fake news,” and while that’s good, I do see why some people don’t follow through. It takes a shocking amount of work to determine the accuracy of what you are reading.

One example I’ve recently become aware of is sponsored Instagram ads. If a celebrity is telling me something, I’m going to be intrigued about what they’re selling. I might not check my sources before going to Amazon and ordering a new skincare product or gummy vitamins that claim to make my hair shiny. Call me kooky, but I would assume that these ads have been run through some sort of system to determine if they are legitimate and the product they are promoting will kill me or not.

Spoiler: they probably haven’t been. 

This issue is especially prominent with dieting bloggers. Everyone knows the drill: the tummy tuck tea that actually just makes you have horrible diarrhea, the recipes hailed as keeping you full for hours filled with ingredients like spirulina and kale, and the dramatic before and after pictures. However, at least one study has shown that diet influencers are not backed by scientific data and often state opinion as fact.  

Instagram influencers can have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of followers. Spreading false medical information can be horribly damaging to people if they don’t take the time to stop and check what the influencer is promoting.

Reading an article about malpractice by social media users was not why you chose to read this article, though. You were promised a live dinosaur, the real meat of what people think when they hear “fake news,” which would be the news.

Perhaps you get your news from The Atlantic. Perhaps you get it from The New York Times, or Fox News, or Twitter, or the Associated Press, or any number of other news organizations and platforms that strive to bring you the best and most accurate coverage most of the time. 

Let’s face it, unless you’re an all-knowing god (and if you are, hit up my Twitter), you have no way of knowing if something is fake news. You have to put your faith in the companies you are receiving content from and trust that what they say is true. That’s scary. 

Until news companies and social media sites come up with a more rigorous screening for information they release, the responsibility falls on us, the consumer, to determine whether or not something is fake news, as frustrating as that is. 

Luckily for all of the students at the UW, there are resources on campus. The iSchool is launching the Center for an Informed Public this year and there are multiple online sources you can check to make sure the content you consume is correct. 

It’s OK to trust some of the stuff you hear and read, but if you feel at all suspicious or if there’s something important riding on the information being correct, don’t be tricked by fake news. The most important thing to do is stay informed in any way that you can. 

Reach contributing writer Zoe Schenk at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @schenk_zoe 

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