Fake news has been in the news a lot recently. While Nicely Done Sites does not propagate fake news the Internet has seemingly been overrun with it. Tech companies have been moving to try to combat fake news as it has gone from something that was more fun and innocent to something that has the seeming ability to sway voters and alter a nation’s course. It produced one of the most famous sound bites of 2017 when Donald Trump told CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta that he was fake news. So the question is, can fake news ever be fixed?

Fake news is not new

Fake news is not new. William Randolph Hearst pioneered it with what became known as “yellow journalism” in the late 1800s. It was his inflammatory articles about what the Spanish were doing to Americans in Cuba that helped lead us to war in 1898. While we cleaned the Spaniard’s clocks and established ourselves as a world power we went to war over made up events and an unfortunate accident (Remember the Maine!). Hearst’s correspondents that were supposedly in the heart of the action and witnessing atrocities first hand were actually writing their sensational articles from a luxurious Havana hotel far away from their made up scene. One of Hearst’s rivals, Joseph Pulitzer created sensational headlines about lurid subjects which prompted people to buy his paper, the New York World. We know that today as clickbait.

With fake news there is one thing to keep in mind. Just because it is labeled as fake news does not mean it is fake. The Holocaust is one of the great crimes against humanity. During World War 1 British propaganda depicted the Germans, known as the Hun, as rapists, a baby-killer and an all around evil person. It helped to bring the United States into the war and to turn the tide but the American soldiers found their German opponents to be anything but. Their skepticism for fake news was played on a generation later when questions about the existence of the extermination of the Jewish people were posed to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels who cited the propaganda of a generation before while calling the rumors of the Holocaust essentially fake news. We know today that it was certainly not fake to the millions who suffered.

Can fake news be stopped?

So what is the solution to combat this on the Internet and social media? After all, fake news tends to spread faster than real news on the Internet just like a juicy rumor. Some tech companies are changing their algorithm that filters news or has real humans filter content which has lead to an uproar as some feel that they are unfairly targeted. It seems that more than just fake news is being filtered and claims of censorship are common. Will it work? Probably not. A majority of tech experts believe that this is a problem that cannot be fixed easily.

Education and an Internet savvy seem to be the best defense. People should know what sites can be trusted and what cannot. They should also learn what sites function as satire like the Onion. For stories that seem too good to be true sources need to be checked and people should learn how to do this. After all, it’s all on the Internet. In today’s scramble to get the scoop checking and double checking seem to have gone out the window as being first is more lucrative than being right. No one after all reads the corrections and even a mistake can have far reaching implications. Just ask Brian Ross.

As technology moves forward new tools will undoubtedly become available leading to new avenues to get information to the masses. Some of this information will undoubtedly be false but people will still consume it and believe it. From the president of the US being in cahoots with aliens to living survivors of the Titanic being found on an iceberg to Noah’s Ark being found on Mars some people will always believe. For the rest of the people who did not take the Weekly World News seriously learning how to spot fake news is the best way to combat it. We can’t, nor should we trust, any corporation or entity to do it for us. That just opens up the door for more fake news.

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