Fake news

Why some fall for it!

At the moment the term “fake news”doesn’t have a fixed definition, and has been applied quite broadly to include any type of false information, including whether it was unintentionally and unconsciously produced.

With regards to fake news on the internet, the term is used to describe false or misleading information being presented as news. This news is quite often intended to damage a reputation of a person or business. It can also be used as a way to make money through advertisng revenue from the often increased online traffic.

Read more on this discussion here at wkikipedia

But surley as adults we should be able to determine if it is fake news and disregard it? Yeah, we should, but, its not quite as simple as that as we have something called a ‘cognitive bias’ getting in the way.

A cognitive bias is what they call a systematic error in our thinking and it occurs when you are processing and interpreting information in the world around you. This bias affects the decisions and judgments you make. In short Cognitive biases are often a result of your brain’s attempt to simplify information processing.

There are two well-known psychological concepts;

The first is motivated reasoning which can be triggered by aconfrontation with a certain threat to the self. We use emotionally biased reasoning to produce justifications or make decisions that are most desired rather than those that accurately reflect the evidence. So if a person has done something you feel is wrong or a threat to your wellbeing you may be motivated to believe untrue stories about them.

The second concept is “naïve realism,” our tendency to believe that our perception of reality is the only accurate view, and that people who disagree with us are necessarily uninformed, irrational, or biased. Naïve realism helps explain the why some people on the internet resort to name calling or inappropraite comments to discredit the person who disagrees with them. It is also why some are quick to label any report that challenges their worldview as fake.

We’re all quick to believe what we’re motivated to believe, and we call too many things ‘fake news’ simply because it doesn’t support our own view of reality.”

Much of our susceptibility to fake news has to do with how our brains are wired. We all like to think we lofty political ideals that are based on strong truths, but if we examine them carefully we might find they are not as robust as we think. To some extent our political beliefs are similar to our tastes in things like food and music. Some are good but others maybe a little strange.

Now consider the way google uses your search data. We all see adverts or specific websites poping up in our news feed. These adverts and websites are carefully selected as Google Ads analyses web content and considers factors such as text, language, link structure and page structure. It then determines the central themes of each web page and targets ads based on your topic selections.

Try start to search for something you have no interest in and never searched for and it will start to appear in your news feed. At times this is quite useful for example I was search for information for hikes in Norway. After a few days my news feed had 4 or 5 websites covering different hikes I knew nothing about.

On the donwside with tagerted news and adverts you get more of the same. After awhile being swamped with walks around Norway it becomes a bit overwhelming. Whatever your belief once the internet gets hold of it you will get plenty of new and views to support it.

Those who suffer addiction are particulaly at risk. For example if I had a gambling addiction and searched online for help. Google will analyse my web search and regeister gambling enquiry and start to send adverting and articles to my personalised newsfeed to encourage me to gamble more. This can have a devestaing impact on the person trying to break free from the addiction and unfortunately its all perfectly legal.

Now consider the child who discovers a porn site by accident. That child will quite likely, at some point, recieve reminders, tageted ads or links in the news feed to more porn. That is a very ncomfortable truth of the internet and why you need to monitor your childern online

How can we detect fake news?

there are a few ways we can prevent try to prevent getting caught up in fake news by simply applying a few rules when reading information off the internet. Its important to remember the internet is impossible to regulate and people can and do post almost anything they want to.

Below are 7 checks professionals such as doctors, lawyers, journalist use to make sure the source of the news is accurate, but if your cognitive bias is strong you may end believing what you want to! Be curious and question everything to get to the source.

  1. Whats the source of the news content. Try to understand its mission and purpose e.g is it a joke story laced with satire or written for attention with little truth
  2. Read the whole story not just snippets as you skim read. Most of us are concentration poor but we need to see beyond the headline and try to understand the whole story tat requires some careful reading.
  3. check to make sure the author has left their named so you can check to ensure they are genuine. Difficult to believe anonomous stories.
  4. have they dated the article? You need to make sure the story is still relevant and upto date
  5. Have they included supporting sources so you can check to make sure their story is based on supporting facts
  6. Take a goos honest look at your own biases. Are they affecting your veiws?
  7. Always get more than one opinion.



Stay bias free!