New Oxford Study – 88% of all statistics online are made up

A recent study from Columbia University reveals a frightening statistic; 59% of shared links online have never been opened (Gabielkov et al., 2016). The subsequent impact that an entirely fictitious title can have – such as this blog title – can, therefore, contribute largely to the fake news pandemic as this article(Dewey, 2016) alludes to. Indeed, it is as if the public is growing more adverse to factually correct news items; with fake news significantly more popular on Twitter (Vosoughi, Roy and Aral, 2018). Given the almost ubiquitous nature of fake news across social media platforms (Statista, 2018), assessing the reliability and authenticity of news has never been more important. Fill out this quick poll to see how often people have found fake news!

Discussion within the FutureLearn MOOC has revealed some of the strategies deployed by individuals when attempting to assess the reliability of various news sources. A significant number of comments addressed the ‘filter bubble’ issue (FutureLearn, 2018), the concept that through personalisation an individuals feed displays only what they would want to see. This can limit the depth of discussions to be had online, and create an environment allowing fake news to flourish.

We know then that Fake News is a major issue, and is found over many social media sites. How can we assess the authenticity of the source then? I have created an interactive challenge detailing some activities which can help:

There have been several guides published online to attempt to find fake news and distinguish genuine fact from ludicrous fiction. The BBC has a useful summary (Burns, 2017) of some key areas which you can use to check an article – find it here!.

One of the most useful tools at an individuals disposal, however, is their common sense – if a piece of news sounds odd then simply fact check! To help show how quickly fake news can spread, Cambridge Researchers have created an online game called Bad News. This allows you to set up your own fake news empire – and gives you tips on how to avoid!

There are many ways we can try to identify fake news. However, the best tool we have is education – only then can we limit the spread of misinformation.

Word Count: 350

References
Burns, J. (2017). Fake news: Universities offer tips. [online] BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41902914 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2018].

Dewey, C. (2016). 6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new, depressing study says. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/06/16/six-in-10-of-you-will-share-this-link-without-reading-it-according-to-a-new-and-depressing-study/?utm_term=.5e2e3ad32504 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2018].

FutureLearn. (2018). Media Literacy – Learning in the Network Age – University of Southampton. [online] Available at: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-network-age/4/steps/303353/comments?filter=everyone&sort=most_liked#fl-comments [Accessed 10 Mar. 2018].

Gabielkov, M., Ramachandran, A., Chaintreau, A. and Legout, A. (2016). Social Clicks. ACM SIGMETRICS Performance Evaluation Review, [online] 44(1), pp.179-192. Available at: https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01281190.

Statista. (2018). Frequency of fake news in media U.S. 2017 | Statistic. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/678000/fake-news-media-frequency/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2018].

Vosoughi, S., Roy, D. and Aral, S. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380), pp.1146-1151.

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