The Shady Ways You Are Being Targeted With Fake News (and How to Avoid It)

What exactly is fake news? Simply explained, fake news is propaganda created to intentionally misinform the public. This sort of falsified information is usually circulated via social media networks, and it’s even speculated to be one of the reasons Trump won the 2016 election.

President Trump uses the term as a scapegoat for any unwanted press, which unfortunately undermines the threatening and very real epidemic that is fake news. Nevertheless, random and average Joes are littering your news feed with absolute, junk news. Here are the shady ways you are being targeted with fake news and how to avoid it.

1. Everyone is targeted

starbucks coffee cup

People actually believed a satirical site saying Starbucks was trying to convince customers to become satanists. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Fake news is prevalent, but it doesn’t make a huge impact until it becomes viral. At that point, the implications can make or break businesses both large and small. Walmart, Target, Amazon, and even Starbucks have all felt the pangs that fake news can have on a customer base. It can also wreak havoc on political races such as the 2016 Russian tampering of the presidential election (more on that later).

The point is, anyone with a little computer and design know-how can create inaccurate, untrue news. Then, they can throw a little money behind sponsoring it, and the next thing you know it has gone viral. The propaganda should catch you by surprise, sparking curiosity about its validity.

Next: Is fake news always outlandish? 

2. Fake news doesn’t have to be outlandish

Donald and Melania Trump

People thought this was a body double. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

According to BBC, Studies have gone to show that when it comes to fake news — the simpler the lie, the easier it is to believe. It’s a concept called “cognitive fluency.” Basically, the easier the information is for people to smoothly process, the more likely they are to believe it. For example, fake news stories regarding Melania Trump having a body double or Kid Rock suddenly running for Senate are wildly inaccurate yet easy enough to believe, so people bought into it.

Next: This technology makes spotting fake news increasingly more difficult. 

3. Photoshopped images make fake news very believable

Fake news photoshop shark hurricane

Photoshop can make people believe a lot of things. | Jon Peletier via Twitter

Photos conjure up memories some of us have forgotten. But they also have the ability to manipulate what we believe or think we remember. Such is the case when it comes to fake news. Software such as Photoshop enables a user to exploit an innocent photograph into an untrue scene, depicting something that never actually happened. This type of exploitation plays into the “cognitive fluency” of fake news.

Next: President Trump plays a big role in junk news. 

4. The president isn’t helping the situation

He is definitely propagating the issue. | GIPHY

Societies have falsified news for centuries, but in the context of fake news inundating social media feeds — it’s a fairly new concept. The particularly frustrating side of it all is that President Trump has called highly reputable news sources “fake” on a regular basis. You see, the phrase “fake news” has come flying out of the president’s mouth so many times that Americans aren’t sure what is and is not fake news.

It is important for viewers and listeners to understand that President Trump accuses the media of propagating fake news when the real news is not serving him or his policies well.

Next: Here’s where things really got ugly. 

5. Russia really changed the fake news game

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia has been planting stories. | Adam Berry/Getty Images

Russian Irina V. Kaverzina emailed her family to inform them of her participation in the fake news scandal and tampering of the 2016 presidential election. According to The New York Times, she wrote that she “had a slight crisis here at work: the F.B.I. busted our activity (not a joke)…So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues. I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

The truth is, until 2016, Americans had never witnessed the influence that social media could have over a presidential election. Furthermore, Americans at large would have never conjured up the idea that a group of Russians was creating fake news to plant on Facebook to sway votes. But it happened.

Next: The best way to avoid believing fake news. 

6. Don’t neglect differing views

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at debate

Be open to hearing things from multiple angles. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

We get it, you value your views and hold them ever-so-close. But when those views become a breeding ground for fake news attacks, it’s crucial that you do not buy into every random story or meme you read on Facebook. Instead, accept that you do not know all. In fact, you know very little in comparison to what may be going on behind a “veil of credibility.” While you do not have to accept the differing views as your own, at least look into them in hopes of finding the truth.

Next: Also, expand your news feed. 

7. Don’t get all of your news from Facebook

Apple Iphone 6 screen with social media applications

Get your news from other reliable sources. | HStocks/iStock/Getty Images

If your one-stop shop for news if your Facebook feed, you are practically guaranteed to be reading garbage on a daily basis. Look to other news sources, even if they are online. Despite President Trump’s claims that “the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes,” is a terrible source for news, that’s simply not true. Dig in and do your own fact checks. And by all means, question everything.

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