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Editorial

Fake news not difficult to debunk, should be taken seriously

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December 15, 2016

Fake news has been a popular topic of conversation lately, lighting up cable news discussions and research studies. Simply ignoring fake news, which we are seeing more than ever on social media, may no longer be enough.

Fake news is not a revolutionary aspect of our use of social media. People have mistakenly believed headlines from The Onion and other satirical news sources to be true for years. The difference is that we are now seeing how it impacts how we view the world.

A recent study by Stanford University found startling results for middle school and high school students, but also concluded that college students also have a hard time seeing the problem. Less than a third of undergraduates polled were able to explain why a tweet from an activist group might be biased.

Part of the way we can stop the spread of fake news is by verifying things before we share them. Sometimes this just takes a little common sense. No, Donald Trump did not say that Earth is flat. Examining the name of the source website or clicking around a bit can reveal the same doubts.

Other times, it may take a little digging on your part to figure out what is real. Have you seen that story about the little boy dying in Santa’s arms? A quick search on the Snopes website shows the story is actually unproven. It’s a sob story that elicits an emotional response, so naturally we want to share it with our friends and family, but it hasn’t been proven to have really happened.

Snopes is one option if you want to do the work. However, there may be an easier way. Slate just developed a Chrome browser extension called This is Fake. When you scroll down your social media feed, red boxes appear around stories coming from known sources of fake news. Additionally, you see links to real sources debunking the article in question. With this tool, most of the work is already done for you, and you can simply ignore the post or inform the person sharing the article of its inaccuracies.

Above all, don’t just read a headline and start screaming. If you think the story might be real, read it and evaluate it. If it seems like things just aren’t adding up, point it out.