Years ago while standing in the checkout line at the local grocery store, we would notice cover stories of The National Enquirer and other tabloids. “Elvis abducted by aliens,” “Big Foot kidnaps children in Oregon,” and “Billy the Kid lives in Florida” are all fake stories drummed up by very creative individuals to make money.
Fast forward 10 years and fake news takes a jump into mainstream media when NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams is caught sharing fabricated stories about the Gulf War and Hurricane Katrina. Williams is ultimately terminated for misrepresenting events in news reports.
Today, with the addition of social media, fake news is front and center every single day. People create and share factless information that is then shared hundreds or thousands of times over social media, creating flurries of uninformed citizens. In fact these fake news pieces come from people just like you and me who feel it is their right to share information as though it were 100 percent correct. They share it because they don’t double-check its authenticity.
Unfortunately, there are literally hundreds of websites creating fake and hoax news that have automatic feeds directly to social media sites flooding our pages everyday. Many of these sites have names that allow readers to think they are legit, such as bigamericanews.com, realnewsrightnow.com, MSNBC.website, redflagnews.com, newswire-24.com and veteranstoday.com just to name a few. All have a professional- and direct-sounding names, so why would we think the information they share is fake, bogus, incorrect or simply outright wrong. But it is. You can find a full list of these sites at fakenewswatch.com
Many of these sites were at the core of our most recent presidential election, each supporting one side or the other, sharing lies across the Internet that ultimately impacted its outcome.
Fake news has also become very prevalent in today’s struggles between races, in police attacks, foreign affair issues and our upcoming presidential inauguration. These news sites are not helping — they are hurting our nation. And it is up to us to understand that.
It’s important that we don’t simply rely on everything we read, hear or share, to evolve and extend the life of an inaccurate story. Taking fake news and sharing it is not fair to those who will receive it. But not researching for one’s self if a story is accurate before sharing is irresponsible.
Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.