Internet News and Fake News Jan. 19th

The main problem with internet news is that we tend to look for and accept the news that we agree with. This is called a confirmation bias. We select the news that confirms what we already believe. The problem is that the news we select is often wrong. They can test a person’s tendency to have a confirmation bias with something called the Wason rule discovery task. 

We know that fake news played a big role in the last election and in the polarization of the two parties. Because there are only two parties we tend to think that our side is always right and the other side is always wrong.  Therefore Democrats only trust Liberal sources and Republicans only trust conservative sources.

This has become a zero sum game and instead of dialogue, we often speak past each other, and resort to name calling if we can’t answer a legitimate response. A BuzzFeed News analysis found that in the final 3 months of the presidential election, people read more made-up news stories on Facebook than legitimate news sources doing fact-based reporting.

In conventional news sources, things don’t get published unless it meets journalistic standards and have reliable, often multiple sources. With fake news, people just make up sensationalist headlines designed so people will click on that story. It is called “click bait”.

One of the reasons that people read fake news is that the authors of fake news get paid when people on the internet read their articles.

Both Google and Facebook are going to restrict ads that make fake news so lucrative.

How can we tell if it is fake news or real? The first step is to realize that we do have a confirmation bias, and instead of just accepting one source look for multiple sources. If you hear unbelievable things simply fact check it. There are multiple ways to do that.

Unfortunately, Republicans are constantly told that the mainstream “Liberal Press” is lying to us. Trust in the media is at an all time low of 32% with only 14% of Republicans believing the media and 50% of Democrats. When people no longer trust establishment news sources they are more susceptible to fake news.

During the recent election the people who made fake news targeted both sides, knowing that they would want to hear terrible things about their opponent. Trump generated enough terrible things in the real news that people had no problem believing fake news stories about him. Most fake news went to the Republican side since they did less fact checking, but both sides believed fake news. (R. 84% to D. 71%)

There are some web sites dedicated to fighting fake news. Some of the things they do at this website are:  Expose the tactics Fox News and other fake news sources use to manipulate the public and create an intense atmosphere of fear and distrust. Give people the tools to have real conversations with conservative friends, family members and co-workers that generate insights, not political food fights. Build a movement to break through polarization and gridlock to create real dialogue.

Facebook is now partnering to fact check fake news and label it as fake.

The same should be true for Google and other search engines. They now display articles based solely on the number of visits to the site. They should rate the articles by the truthfulness of the article instead.

Where can we find objective truth? Shouldn’t there be something like the scientific method that enables us verify the veracity of stories? What about having a computer like Watson to go over millions of articles and research articles to determine what is right and what is wrong.

Part of the problem is that conservatives, more than liberals, live in a post factual, alternative world. If news media call the conservatives out on the false information, the conservatives will say that the media is biased. Therefore you shouldn’t trust the liberal media. As Stephen Colbert said  “ Reality has a well known liberal bias”.










About altruist1

I am a raging progressive and a writer. I received Bachelors degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Arts with a Secondary teaching certificate and a minor in Physics. I taught for about ten years, then did various jobs including welding,fabrication and traffic engineering, and am now retired. I am interested in science, energy, the environment, and architecture.
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