In an era when technology is more accessible than ever, we find ourselves mastered by the availability of information. Information in the 20th century, before the diffusion of technology, could be easily divided in information produced and information perceived. The first was handled by newspaper and since the paper press cost, it was useless and counterproductive to spread false news. The consequence was that only journalists or people that engaged professionally with the media could take part in this media machine.

Nowadays, things have changed. Access to social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) has mingled the two sides of the medal: those receives the news can also contribute to its diffusion, but the way this process is carried out cannot be controlled. It happened to all of us at least once that we read or heard something which didn’t come from an attendance source. 

Sources have increased tenfold: blogs, posts, tweets are all considered source of news, which, however, isn’t checked out before they go public. The process that leads a newspaper to be pressed is consistently different from a post being written and published in an instant. The more sources there are, the more is difficult to select them and decide which one we trust.

Media, social media and easy constant access to the latest news (wherever we are and wherever we go), make us more subject and victims to this broad knowledge.

The questions we should answer to are: where does this hike of information come from? How was the fake news phenomenon born? How should we react to it?

Fake news is strictly related to politics. It dates back to the Roman Marc Anthony the practice to support a political campaign with propaganda and, it goes without saying, politicians have this bad habit to bend the facts in order to gain more approval. This practice got exasperated in 2016 with Trump’s campaign, since he twitted fake news in order to sink his adversaries. The increment of false news was such that it outdid the diffusion of real news.

This fact is strictly linked to the habit that people have to check Facebook instead of the newspaper websites, which leads to an even worse spread of unattended sources. Moreover, there is a psychological background to this phenomenon of selecting our sources: we are unconsciously pushed to select what reflects an opinion we already have and maybe we have simply not elaborated yet.

In order to counter this bad habit, we have different options:

  1. if the news comes from a “private” source (blog, post, or tweet) we should check the source of it (did the news come from an article, a newscast? Has it been confirmed as true?)
  2. train to read newspapers that do not reflect our ideas: this exercise allows us to not be biased in what we read, listen to or talk about.

False news is to be considered a social virtual disease and a subform of ignorance: it is more difficult to distinguish it because it presents itself as information, but in fact, it isn’t. It is up to us to discern what is true and what is false and in order to do so we have to enact a double-faced process: select fewer sources, read more.

Chaira Merlino, Correspondent (Our World)