Social media integrity: our view on fake news

The last few months have shown us the ‘dark side’ of social media, with an overabundance of fake news stories going viral – and making a serious, real-world impact on huge political and social events.

Like how a million people believed that the Pope endorsed Donald Trump:

pope fake news

Source: Business Insider

N.B.: He didn’t.

Apparently, ‘fake news’ generated more engagement in the three months leading up to the US election than the 19 major news outlets (according to Buzzfeed).

Media outlets, in general, are not fulfilling their responsibility as journalists and publishers. Far too many publishers aren’t fulfilling their responsibility to confirm and vet information or to take into account which news stories truly matter. And people have put too much confidence in the wrong sources for information.

Take for example the newspapers and websites like the Daily Mail, which parade as news outlets but fail to meet journalistic standards, and just spew out sensational clickbait headlines.

This has blurred the line of what qualifies as ‘news,’ and allows inaccurate or exaggerated stories to reach the public.

Plus, social media – and the internet in general – allows anyone to publish information which can end up being disseminated, shared and, most dangerously, believed.

Taking responsibility

Facebook recently stated that it’s launching an initiative which will fact check news stories shared on the network. However, it really is up to individuals to discern whether information can be trusted.

The team at Podium manages many Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and websites for our clients. And these social media accounts and blog posts reach thousands (and occasionally millions) of people on a weekly basis.

This is why we take responsibility for checking our sources, providing well-researched articles and ensuring that the public is receiving honest messages.

As ex-journalists and public relations experts, we follow strict ethical guidelines when it comes to creating content and sharing news stories:

  • We only quote statistics or facts from genuine sources i.e. government reports, accredited studies or research organisations
  • Podium will not share news articles which contain facts that cannot be corroborated (and we actually read articles before we share them)
  • Our writers and social media managers give credit to outside sources of information
  • We maintain an objective stance when presenting controversial news on behalf of our clients
  • Podium is open and clear about the intent behind social media posts – we are marketers, not manipulators

Brands, organisations, and even individuals should try to follow similar ideals when sharing information on social media.

Give it a go: can you tell the difference between fake news and the real thing?  

This is a recent news story we found online.

fake news

Source (one that we wouldn’t typically cite): TrendingViews.com.

According to this article, the new name is Altaba, which “sounds like a drug you take for your penis.”

So is this real, or just another example fake news?

By completing a quick Google search, you can find this story also covered on multiple other sites, but the details are a bit different…

altaba

As you can see, some sites are labelled by Google as ‘Highly Cited.’ These are typically more trustworthy, and certain large news sites like Reuters or The Guardian can provide a more accurate (fact-checked) version of news stories.

In this case, the ‘trending’ news site broke this story a bit too soon. It’s definitely worth checking a few other sources to see if the details line up.

Here’s another news article – is this one real or not?

surfer chick

Result: fake. I just used a ‘fake news generator’ website to create this article. And it was easy to do. Be cautious about websites you’ve never heard of before, and don’t trust news that sounds impossible without first checking further sources.

What about satire?

Satire is technically another form of fake news best reserved for those who have actually READ the REAL news (or Brits. “Us Americans don’t get that sarcasm stuff.”)

For example:

coat

Source: Newsthump

This one is tricky because it’s probably true…

In conclusion:

When publishing anything on social media (or reading any information online) it’s very important to be critical. Share responsibility, and don’t encourage engagement on false or negative stories.

More: here is a great guide from the Guardian about how to spot fake news.

And if you currently manage a social media page, please take extra care to check what you’re sharing – actually read the article, don’t just copy the link.

If you’re concerned about the quality of your Facebook Page posts or Tweets, we’d be happy to discuss your content options for social media. Or, if you’d like help managing your social media sites or creating quality content for your website, simply drop us a line!