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The Age of Disinformation

In our day and age, information can be accessed from any place or any time. The ability to look up the answers to our greatest questions, see news from around the world, and connect with friends and family from wherever has bestowed on our lives with the gift of connectedness and knowledge. But, it is not always a blessing. The internet can be filled with hate and misinformation. In a jaunting post from The Atlantic, “The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News”, it was found that in the last 10 years, fake news stories reached and impacted more users on Twitter than true ones. As alarming as this study is, I am not very surprised by the result. From a young age, I have always been taught to question everything I may see online. From fake news stories on instagram to major news sources with conflicting information about events, fake news has given me a major distrust in the validity of the media. What is most shocking to me is that not all students are able to identify what news is fake. In a study posted by NPR, “Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds“, college students were unable to tell if an activist group’s post was biased and Stanford students did not know the difference between a mainstream source or a fringe source. Though we have access to limitless information, we cannot seem to identify what is real, which can lead to the vast spread of misinformation.

What is also concerning about the news that we see today is what articles or sources become popular. It seems that good news has actually become bad news. When news stations report on events that are “good”, they do not get the coverage that negative or “bad” events receive. This is mainly due to “outrage culture”. Stories that are controversial or that spark anger get more attention due to the extreme reaction that people get when they see them. Due to this, fake but upsetting news takes headlines for publicity. It seems that the media has come to value a reaction for clicks over real news. This form of news is not only bad for spreading misinformation, but it can be truly harmful. On the extreme sides of the political spectrum, fake posts can cause people to be trapped in a cycle of fake information that riles them up. This can lead to conspiracy theories that consume peoples lives based of wrong information. Not being able to identify what news is fake has lead to media outlets causing outrage and ultimately dooming the public and tainted our views of the world.

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