Fake news and viral misinformation

Fake news and viral misinformation, whilst being pernicious and timeless issues, present ever-greater risks as more people spend time online. Increased attention to social media and reliance on secondary sources for making important judgements render the public extremely vulnerable to fake news. Media platforms, including news feeds, are rife with bad journalism, poor statistics, and convincing “experts”, providing a minefield through which we must navigate. In addition, companies are becoming more aware of how to use these techniques to their own benefit. It is no wonder that people become so confused, bewildered, and mislead online – evidenced by the success of scammers and proliferated political agendas. During the pandemic, this has manifested itself in mass public ignorance and foolishness, not only in attitudes displayed online but dangerous behaviours. This is a worldwide issue, rendering massive ramifications in the decisions that society makes, such that a simple retweet of fake news can fool millions of people. We see this clearly in the rise of Anti-Vax campaigns, and the confusion surrounding different COVID strains and transmission. For example, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate estimates Anti-Vax beliefs already have a following of 5.4 million people in the UK, so fuelled by social media. Such fundamental views and its increased following are a danger and hindrance to generating group immunity. Additionally, after Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook, misinformation about election fraud decreased by 73%. These facts stand to exemplify the importance of viral misinformation, especially as an entire generation of children are growing up in an increasingly technology-filled world. Without intervention, we see the havoc that fake news harbours. We must stand to tackle the enemies of reason and truth through education, not only for our current society but for the benefit of democratic longevity and national health.




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