Yesterday, a Facebook friend shared the “news” that a 10-year-old boy contracted HIV from an infected banana sold at Walmart.
The story appeared to be from CNN, and it managed to pass through Facebook’s new algorithm that works to verify real news sources.
Upon closer inspection, the fake news came from not from CNN but ‘The World Nature.’ The actual article reads like a bad translation from another language, but there’s an eye-catching photo of a supposedly infected banana — which surely prompted sharing.
Facebook isn’t the only one that failed here. My friend did, too.
Stopping fake news isn’t simply the responsibility of “the Internet” or “the media,” but also, “the public.” Yes, it’s wrong that fake news is out there, but when it’s shared — or worse, goes viral — that’s a failure for which the public needs to take responsibility.
To do your part, take this pledge to stop fake news in its tracks. These three steps for adults and kids are easy, but important in the fight against fake news:
1. Read Before Sharing — Sounds simple, right? Yet, surveys tell us 50 percent of people sharing news on social media channels haven’t actually read what they’re sharing. (Why do we share? Sharing elevates the status of the sharer. That’s good. But the opposite happens when fake news is shared: You just damaged your credibility.)
2. Check The Source — Take a good look at the URL. Fake news sites go to great lengths to mimic established news sources. Check the URL for any letters that shouldn’t be there: There’s a big difference between abcnews.go.com and abcnews.com.co. Still not sure? Check the About section of a website and check out the footer of the homepage for more information.
3. Don’t Rely on Algorithms — Those little green check marks that are designed to tell readers that an article is legit are based on algorithms that may have worked yesterday, but will not necessarily work today. And, it’s easy for a news story to incorporate green check marks into the layout of the article — which renders the approval concept useless.
Three steps. Share with your friends, colleagues and family. That’s all it takes to help clear up this nonsense that’s populating our social media feeds.