By now, everyone's heard of fake news. To some, it means "Someone said something negative about me!", but to most, it means a story that looks like a factual news story from a reliable outlet, but in reality, it's just something someone made up for clicks. Sometimes, there's a tiny shred of truth to the news, but oftentimes, it's just completely fabricated.
Why Would People Do That?!
In today's world, clicks mean money. So people will do just about anything to get people to pay attention to their website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, or whatever. So they have no issues with just making up stories so people will spread it around because it confirms something they already believe.
Do Readers Really Fall For That?!
Sadly, they do. A Stanford study found that most American students couldn't tell the difference between real news and fake news. Readers often don't look for references or sources, and if they are presented with them, don't go any deeper to see if the source agrees with the article (or even if it exists at all).
Is There Anything We Can Do To Combat This?
Social media outlets are starting to take the issue a bit more seriously, but we can actually protect ourselves a bit by learning some better critical thinking skills. Shane Horn is a professor that promotes and teaches these abilities with great success. He did a similar study on students in Finland (where critical thinking is taught as required coursework in most schools), and they performed much, much better.
Then There's Hope!
Sadly, while there are some places that teach these fake-finding techniques, most people will still be duped. And even worse, the technology is getting much, much better. As I wrote about before, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are getting better and better every day. One thing they're doing really well is creating what are known as Deep Fakes. This is technology that creates videos of people saying and doing things that never happened. One example was making Former President Barack Obama say whatever the creator wanted (and this was last year!) This opens the door to a great deal of destruction to objective reality. Catching something on tape will soon be meaningless because even if it's real, the person caught can just claim it's fake.
So What Do We Do?
- Stay skeptical and find sources that you really trust. If you find them to be untrustworthy, stop listening/reading! Lies are like roaches... when you find one, you know there are many more behind the scenes.
- Look for corroboration. Are other reliable sources saying the same thing?
- Keep training your critical thinking skills. Take courses like this free one. Play games that enhance your abilities.
- Spread the word that this technology exists and be ready to stop it!
In the end, there's little we can do to stop the spread of noise like all of this fake news. But we can try to do our parts to not make things worse. Eventually, though, we will have to come up with another way to determine truth. And honestly, I'm not sure what that way will be.
Had you heard about deep fakes before? What do you think can be done to combat this growing trend of false reality? Chime in below!