It seems like we can’t go a day without hearing someone complaining about fake news, and it turns out that it is more-influential than the mainstream pubic assumes. In fact, research has shown that fake news stories are more than twice as likely to be shared or discussed than stories from legitimate sources, and this is one of the reasons that it was so influential in shaping public opinion during the 2016 election.
It’s Our Fault
While it’s easy to blame social media and search engines for allowing fake news to propagate, the reality is that it’s not their fault. Social media is a platform for interaction and communication that people use to have their voices heard, but it’s what they create, view and share that has caused this problem more than anything else. The fact that most people don’t check sources before allowing themselves to be misinformed doesn’t help either.
Nope, we’re responsible for allowing fake news to enter and influence the psyche of mainstream America. To make matters worse, the intrusion of fake news has made it more-difficult to access legitimate stories, and it has also eroded trust that people place in news in general. Since we’re such an opinion-based society, and we form those opinions from the news that we get, millions of us can be misled, and this can impact everything from how our government functions to the strength of the economy.
Fake news can be used to undermine the strength, autonomy and integrity of our institutions. It can be used to influence stock prices or the value of companies. It can be used to justify a war or to sway an election. It can be used to persuade people to believe things that aren’t true. While the media has been manipulated, and equally manipulates their audience, since the dawn of the press, we’ve never experienced a period in history where so much information can reach so many with such ease. We’ve also never experienced a time when so many people are more-interested in being riled up, tantalized or entertained instead of informed.
Consequently, it’s important to think of fake news as weapons of war that can have a literal impact on our prosperity, stability and security. It’s also important to remember that fake news doesn’t need to originate from foreign countries. It’s everywhere, and the vast-majority of stories are concocted and distributed right here at home, by people who have varying-interests in manipulating the narrative that the public at large is fed.
The moral of this story is to make sure that you get your news from trusted, reliable sources, and that you be more-selective with stories that you pass along to others. Don’t underestimate the influence that fake news can have on our daily lives or our future as a society. In fact, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that weaponized information can drive the next major crisis or SHTF situation that we experience. It’s important to be prepared for this possibility, but it’s also important that we don’t feed those fires and inadvertently speed up that process.