Tuesday, November 17, 2015
How To Not Be Fooled By Satirical/Hoax News Sites
By Mira Kuhar
We often hear the phrase “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” With the quote comes good reason – the Internet is not moderated, edited by an accredited staff, or fact checked. It’s just impossible; the amount of information floating around on the web is just too much to be monitored each and every second of the day. Because of this, people can say whatever they want about any topic they desire. So what happens when people start to believe that everything they’re seeing has some type of validity behind it?
Cue satirical/hoax “news" sites. These websites are often operated and created to look like official news outlets, when in reality they exist as joke or purely for entertainment. If I had a dollar for each time I’ve seen someone on my social media sites share a fake news story, I’d be rich. Nowadays, people are too quick to assume that every “official” site or link that is being posted has some type of hint of validity behind it. This is why fake celebrity deaths, false world events and untrue news clips go viral: we think that everything that is posted to our timelines by people we’re friends with is trustworthy and overall true.
And the sad thing is, it’s not just those were friends with, it’s celebrities too. For example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was recently fooled by a popular hoax news site called “Clickhole.” Clickhole, a sister site of The Onion, another fake/satirical news outlet, describes their company as “the latest and greatest online social experience filled with the most clickable, irresistibly shareable content anywhere on the internet.” This description was not all encompassing of what their company is, and ultimately it fooled even the most credible news reporters.
In short, Anderson Cooper tweeted @clickhole, stating that their content was untrue and that he didn’t do the things they were claiming. His mistake, as he admits in a new tweet later, was that he didn’t do research about what Clickhole actually is. This is exactly the root of this problem with sharing things on social media and ethics. If you want to be ethically correct and build trust with the people who follow you, do your research before posting. It will save you embarrassment and the loss of your credibility.
So what can we do to make sure that the things we’re sharing are valid and come from a credible source? For starters, actually click on the link and read the article. Does it sound accurate? Is there a hint of sarcasm in it? Also, look around the page and see examples of other articles. If you see sketchy titles or extreme topics in other posts, chances are the site is a fake. You can also use Fake News Watch. This website gives a long, but not exhaustive list, of many of the popular satirical/hoax news sites to look out for. They describe these types of websites as “an attempt to play on gullible people who do not check sources and will just pass the news on as if it were really true.” Basically just be aware; don’t assume something is true just because your friend you trust posted it.
In our study of ethics, this proves to be of huge importance moving forward with our careers. Fact checking, researching and staying on our toes as journalists and as PR professionals will ensure that events like what happened to Anderson Cooper will not happen to us in the future. While we cannot get rid of these types of sites all together, by making sure to do the proper research and not to share articles haphazardly, it should be fairly easy to pick out what is right from wrong.