Did you see the news reports about ‘pizza gate’? As the story goes, a paedophilia ring was being run out of a pizza restaurant in Washington and it involved people of the highest level within the Democratic Party. This quickly became trending news at the height of the US election campaigns as Trump supporters heard the story and ran with it.
However, the story was completely made up. Fake news and ‘alternative facts’ have dominated the headlines and our social media feeds recently – whether it’s an actual made up story going viral, reports of platforms combating the trend or users making light of the situation with various memes.
Alarmingly, Buzz Feed has reported that shares of fake news drew more attention is the last three months of the US election than stories from more reputable sites such as CNN. Furthermore, real-sounding, but fake publications sprung up including the Denver Guardian and the Christian Times newspaper. The eye-catching headlines serve as clickbait, attracting the web visitors which in turn drive up the ad revenues, perpetuating the fake news cycle.
The power of fake news is increasing as more and more people get their current affairs updates from social media so we’re relieved that Facebook has announced a fight-back. The social media network has pledged to start flagging fake news by using people to verify facts and will state ‘disputed by third party fact checkers’ if they believe the news is fake.
Hopefully the mocking memes will spread enough awareness to make social media users question the harmful headlines.