The internet is undoubtedly a wonderful thing. It allows mass amounts of information to be accessed and shared throughout all aspects of the world, giving users content and coverage they may have never seen if social media never existed.
As with all good things, however, there is also a side of social media that can be very problematic in the long run. With so much information floating around on Facebook, Twitter, blog sites and pretty much anywhere else you could think of looking, the basic act of fact checking becomes something some users don't remember to do, or even think about doing.
Importance of Rules and Guidelines
Since social media is growing at a rapid pace without signs of stopping, it also means that the rules and regulations must grow as well. The basic ideas of being transparent, truthful, fair and accurate are vital social media and blogging guidelines given by the Radio Television Digital News Association. Journalists should continue to hold the same standards they do writing a print article, as when they post a status on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter.
The Problem of the "Post Now, Update Later" Approach
Problems rise when the mindset of those posting breaking stories switches from "who can post the most accurate, informative article" to "who can post the article the fastest." Twitter, for example, lets users tweet out whatever they want, no matter if it is accurate or not. If a news station picks up on a citizen's tweet that happens to be inaccurate and shares it within their news story thinking it is fact, the trust and the brand of that news source could have a very negative impact.
Blurring The Lines Between Fact and Fiction
The 2016 election is a prime example of how influential a false article can be and how widespread a false article can reach. The internet is loosening our grip on the truth because of how diverse of a media selection we have to choose from. If we don't like an article that has facts and evidence to back it up simply because it doesn't fit into the narrative we want, we can go search for an article that does support our side of the story. The articles that support our side don't have to be factual, they just have to exist.
Pew Research found that Twitter and Facebook are where 63% of users get there news from. In an hour, an article that has zero factual evidence and has proven wrong on snopes.com will be shared countless times, influencing users who do not know how to fact check and making those people believe what they are seeing is true and, in turn, resulting in them sharing these false articles to even more people. It becomes a never-ending cycle.
It's Time to Become More Accountable
I believe that in order for there to be a change in the validity of content on the internet, there needs to first be a change within the community of social media users on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Although Facebook was recently under fire for supposedly influencing the election results because of how many false articles were shared, Facebook itself isn't who's sharing the posts.
Users need to learn to fact check and make logical, evidence-based conclusions as to whether or not what they are reading is true. Until that changes, the fake articles that are posted just for clicks will continue to exist and be shared. Until citizens demand quality over quantity from their articles, we will continue to settle for less than what we deserve.