“Everyone deserves a voice. Not everyone deserves a microphone.” – Aaron Sorkin
The internet has given a voice to everyone. Social media has given them the microphone.
That is what we see around today. The internet, which was designed and initially used to connect and communicate, is now the tool used to propagate. Views and opinions are broadcast through the internet in a way that has garbled the difference between fact and fiction. In most cases, the seamless blending of fact and fiction has brought about disastrous effects.
Lives have been lost.
Everyone, from the President of the United States, Donald Trump, to the roadside political henchman today knows about fake news. This is the news that does not exist but has been cooked up to influence and provoke people into action. Images, videos and texts are morphed and created to give an impression that people of their creed and breed have been targeted. This sets up a sense of revenge among those who are the target of fake news.
To many, fake news is the weapon of the Third World War.
You and I have a responsibility to combat fake news, as and when we see it. Be it the harmless Facebook post that tells you how UNESCO has selected the Indian national anthem as the best in the world to images of celebrities morphed for humor, we have to tackle it head-on.
Steps to fight fake news
Here are some steps you can take on the micro-scaled to fight fake news:
- Cross check before sharing information online. When you share, you endorse it. That is the opinion of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. It takes seconds to verify information online, especially if it is a major event like most fake news claim. A quick search will reveal if the information is true or not.
- If it is fake, make it known through a comment on the thread itself. Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are the chief platforms where fake news is propagated in this part of the world. They all give you a chance to comment and make it known to the unsuspecting that the news item is fake
- Trust only credible sources of information and read accredited news sources only. Don’t click on sundry links and pick up information before broadcasting them through social networks.
- Don’t share fake news, even privately. This is a battle that everyone has to fight to keep our society and its framework intact. Make it a commitment and involve people into following your lead of rejecting fake news the moment you see it.
- Bring fake news to the notice of concerned authorities so that they can take action. There are cyber cells in the police department. There are steps that social media networks can take by pulling off content if sufficient number of people complains against it.
All of us have to take a united stand against this monster of fake news.
The Fact Checker Tool by Google
New Warning Alerts on Facebook for Fake News
You will get an option to tag it as ‘disputed’ news item. A red warning sign below the shared link of the post will give away that the story is fake, or ‘disputed’..
Social media networks are second to none when it comes to spreading around information, both positive and negative. You must have noticed in newspapers how authorities clamp down on the internet and social media sites when they want to control a civil situation. The sharing of fake news on Facebook has touched astronomical proportions! The menace is such that the people at Facebook have come up with a counter-measure.
The new fake news alert on Facebook is the answer, as of now, to fraudulent news items that dupe people into actually believing in them. When such a news story is shared, you will get an option to tag it as ‘disputed’ news item. A red warning sign below the shared link of the post will give away that the story is fake, or ‘disputed’ in the words of Facebook. The validation of whether a story is fake news or not comes from sites like PolitiFact and Snopes.com. The message tells you: “Sometimes people share fake news without knowing it. When independent fact-checkers dispute this content, you may be able to visit their websites to find out why.
Only fact-checkers signed up to Poynter’s non-partisan code of principles are shown.”
What it means that you have the option to tag your own shared story as ‘disputed’, if it is so. Otherwise, Facebook will check the story’s factuality on these two sites and figure out if the story is fake or genuine. If you click on the warning sign, it will direct you to the sites mentioned above to provide an explanation of why the story is fake. Similarly, if you try to share a fake story, you will get a reminder that you are sharing a fake story! The message on your screen will be: “Before you share this content, you might want to know that the fact-checking sites, Snopes.com and PolitiFact disputed its accuracy.”
Bing Joins Fight against Fake News
Netizens across the globe are united on one stand: deal with fake news firmly. Fake news is the reason for strife and tension in many areas of the world. Rumours and hate mongering is amplified with the help of the internet. Incidents are concocted to fan radical ideas and web pages masquerading as news sites are doing most of the damage.
Earlier this year, Google had launched a feature called the Fact Check label. Simply put, it’s a tag on a web page to validate its content. Any web page with this label can be considered to be genuine in its content.
Now Bing has joined this fight against fake news. The idea is an extension of what Google is doing. On Bing search results, the Fact Check label will show up against web pages that pass the litmus test of Bing. Content of web pages has to come up trumps against several criteria, most of which is based on information provided by the site owner or webmaster. If this information is found to be false, the site can be penalized heavily.
Some of the information asked off a webmaster includes the source of the news story. There must be transparency in the source and the method of analysis applied to write the story. Moreover, every claim must be backed with checks for the reader to understand the conclusions drawn. Web pages may contain a ClaimReview markup, which will have a synopsis of the fact checking done to reach a conclusion.
These sorts of steps are extremely necessary in the current global context. People need to know the story, but more importantly, they must know the right story. Search engines can take this responsibility.
Click-Gap Signal – Facebook to Marginalize Misinformation
We all come across Facebook posts which look and read like actual news reports. It is only when you scratch the surface that you find the hidden truth about them: they are fake news items put out by unscrupulous publishers. It is more likely that you have never heard about the news source and probably never will! But it takes a conscious Facebook user to cut through this maze of lies to uncover the truth. Such posts can be used for nefarious activities by various groups of people with mala fide intentions.
Over the years, Facebook has worked toward weeding out this kind of misinformation spread through this social media network. It has also been accused of not doing enough by activities across the globe. Lately, Facebook has launched another offensive to sidetrack and marginalize misinformation. With a new feature called Click-Gap Signal, it will cut down the visibility of news items which are fake and misleading.
How does the Click-Gap Signal feature work? It is an algorithmic mechanism which checks story published on Facebook against the popularity or authority it has on the open internet. If the number of clicks on the news item happens to be more on Facebook and not on channels outside it, it will be deemed as fake news. Such items will be pushed aside and its visibility diminished so that less people can see the item. More people viewing such items mean more of them getting duped.
This is what Facebook has to say about Click-Gap Signal:
This new signal, Click-Gap, relies on the web graph, a conceptual “map” of the internet in which domains with a lot of inbound and outbound links are at the center of the graph and domains with fewer inbound and outbound links are at the edges. Click-Gap looks for domains with a disproportionate number of outbound Facebook clicks compared to their place in the web graph. This can be a sign that the domain is succeeding on News Feed in a way that doesn’t reflect the authority they’ve built outside it and is producing low-quality content.
Facebook has also decided to ban groups and pages which peddle such misleading information. Action will be taken against group admins if user generated content promoting false news is found on their groups.
Sources Tagged to Facebook News Feed
A piece of news is as good as its source. This is a fact about journalism, especially cyber news reporting. There are all sorts of news items flying around at any given time. Fake news and the trouble caused through them are in the headlines for some time now. Online giants like Google and Facebook are battling to keep a lid on the access and sharing of fake news.
Among several other steps in the recent times, Facebook is working on a method to tag news sources to the feed that shows up on your profile wall. You know the function of the ‘i’ button that you often find across social media, even on your phone call logs. This button, on being clicked, offers additional information. Facebook is working on a way to tag sources to news feed articles with the help of this ‘i’ button.
By clicking on the button beside a news story, you can find out its source. It can be Wikipedia or Facebook itself, not to mention a host of other heterogeneous sources. The function of this button is to ensure that you read or share only those stories which are from credible sources according to you. That way, you are not in a danger of sharing something fake.
Along with knowing the source, you can go to the source page and follow them. Additionally, you can check up which contacts are engaging with the content from this source. This contextual information will enable you to understand what you are reading and sharing. This is what Facebook has to say about this new function:
”Helping people access this important contextual information can help them evaluate if articles are from a publisher they trust, and if the story itself is credible. This is just the beginning of the test.”
Google AdSense Ads Won’t Be on Fake News Sites Anymore
Google has decided to bring in some change to its policies in AdSense publisher. The aim is to prevent sites featuring fake news to serve ads go forward.
Google has decided to bring in some change to its policies in AdSense publisher. The aim is to prevent sites featuring fake news to serve ads go forward. No user would like to be misled by content that they engage with online. So, Google ads would not like to feature on pages that conceal information, misstate or misrepresent information. It will not assist in misrepresentation of information related to you, your page or any other web property of yours.
According to the official document stating the same, there will is a list of practices that won’t be acceptable under the changes in policy for the featuring of Google AdSense. According to them, users cannot be engaged by enticing them with content with pretentious, unclear or false information in the form of news article or any other form of writing. Other types of content that are barred under this change in policy include,
- Promotional or deceptive content for services, products
- Falsely stating that an institute or certain product is endorsed affiliated, by a particular individual or body of members.
- Promoting fake Google products
Google has ascertained that it would join hands with Facebook in its fight against all fake news sites. Both companies have come out with their new policies related to their advertising policies.
The change in policies actually does not bar fake news from surfacing on a particular Facebook profile’s newsfeed or search results. However, this social networking site attempts at slashing revenue flow from the Google and Facebook’s advertising platforms to the sites circulating fake news.
The new changes attempt at discouraging the fake news sites to pop up during the user’s web action, by making this very action non-profitable for these site.
YouTube Adds Fact Checker on Some Searches
As a digital citizen, you know about the rampant spreading of rumors and misinformation online. The problem is so acute that the perpetrators are often able to publish the most ridiculous pieces of fake news and still get away with them. All the major digital players like Facebook and Google are conscious of this menace and publishes material on and off about how they are working to curb this problem.
In the latest step taken by Google, YouTube videos will have a fact checker attached to some videos. These videos can be watched by users without any problem, but there will be fact checking information attached to them. This will help users understand that the content they see on the video may not be right or true. The move is aimed at ensuring that viewers are conscious of the fact that they are watching wrong information. This will deter many users from sharing them.
As of now, the launch of the fact checker box is available to a few users. With time, it will be available to every YouTube users.
You need to bear in mind that the fact checker box will be attached only to videos which come up on certain suspicious searches only. It crops up only when people look for sensitive material on YouTube and can be misled. YouTube is tying up with third party fact checkers and the source of the actual material will be seen in the fact checker tab attached to the video. If users want clarity on the content, they can click on the information and go through the material.
YouTube will not remove the videos which have misinformation. It will only add the fact checking tags. So if you think that YouTube will pull off the videos which it knows as misinformation, you are wrong. But it’s a step in the right direction if YouTube makes people aware of what they are viewing.