Fake News and Social Media: A Dangerous Mix

Social media usage has skyrocketed over the past decade, and it seems now that everyone is on at least one social media platform. What most social media users are not aware of however is the fake news epidemic that has been plaguing all forms of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. Many users are unaware that they are reading fraudulent news and accept it as fact, causing massive shifts in popular belief. For instance, last month, Facebook promoted a fictitious news leak reporting that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had been fired from her position for supporting Hillary Clinton in the ongoing presidential campaign. Another, more laughable, example is depicted below.


Recently, Facebook and Twitter, joined a group of over 30 companies that have banded together in the fight against illegitimate news stories, and this coalition is titled First Draft. They define themselves as “experts sharing top tips and training in handling eyewitness media”. On their site they outline how to spot these fraudulent articles, fun ways to train your mind to spot them, and trending fake news.


News story posted by Breitbart News found to have used fake news sources

These stories are often successful through their use of the rhetorical appeals ethos, pathos, and logos. They develop ethos through the impersonation of ethical and credible sources, such as major news outlets. They then utilize pathos in the hopes that your emotional response will cause you to overlook the fraud, most commonly harping on fear.  These articles also exhibit logos, as they must create a logical enough argument to convince the reader it is factual. In an attempt to help cut down on the impact these stories have on a daily basis, here are some helpful tips on spotting phony news stories on your social media feed.

  • Check the date: Many fake news stories have been around for some time yet continue to circulate as new audiences view and repost the story, so make sure you investigate the links associated and manually check when the original story was posted.
  • Look at multiple hosts: A common way to spot these news articles is to look at where the popular sites that host them get their information. When a multitude of these popular sites post the same breaking news and all of them only cite the same original source, it’s time for some vetting.
  • Beware of Fear Mongering: Often times fake news will spread quickly due to fear of a recent outbreak or disaster, such as the Ebola outbreak of 2014 where various stories emerged falsely reporting the spread of the virus.
  • Examine source URLs: Some of these stories may seem credible as they appear to be provided by major news outlets. However, upon looking more closely, users will often notice the URLs are spoofs and not to be trusted.
  • Check the Images: Many fake news posts use convincing images to mislead readers, but a quick reverse image search (https://www.tineye.com/) can unveil any falsified imagery.
  • Scrutinize the Geographic Location: The last tip in this list asks that you consider the geographical location the story takes place, as many of falsified reports tend to originate from locations where news reports can be difficult to corroborate.


– Daniel Walsh

13 thoughts on “Fake News and Social Media: A Dangerous Mix

  1. I think the author of this article did a good job on informing the reader on an issue that should be brought up. Relating to us on a comedic level and later addressing it as a more serious issue was a good way to catch our attention then continue with more information. I think that this article speaks a lot of truth, I see that facebook and twitter are easy ways to find out information and readers will take most things they see on social media to be true. This article creates an awareness for people to be more careful when believing what they read on any social media site which I think is a good thing.

  2. This issue is definitely very relevant right now, and I think the information is presented very well in the article. I’ll have to admit, I have been guilty before of falling for fake news stories. Even when I do want to check the sources, I generally put the topic into a google search. I suppose this can render truthful results most of the time, but it can also pull up results with the same fake stories. These tips that are listed are great and much more accurate ways to find if the source is credible and the information is correct.
    At least I can say I wasn’t one of the people who tried microwaving their iPhones.

  3. I think this is a very big issue that needs to be addressed more often and I’m glad someone decided to write about it. Especially in the case of the upcoming election, fake or exaggerated news can be dangerous to readers when deciding who they will vote for. It seems as though people are quick to believe anything these days without doing further research or assessing the credibility. Hopefully, people will start to realize that not everything they read is true and will put forth more effort to fact-check the articles they read to prevent spreading false information and ideas.

  4. I thought this was an incredibly interesting post! I have seen a rise in “fake news” recently and have been incredibly surprised by just how many people share them unironically. I think one thing that would be interesting to investigate is whether these news stories are more likely to be believed if they seem to confirm biases that one already has, and, of course, whether the opposite is true. I am glad to see that social media sites are cracking down on fake news sources. This also shows just how weird of a spot we are in. We have all of this information accessiable in seconds, and people are too lazy/unwilling/gullible to take the time out to confirm these stories. Honestly, this says a lot about humanity. Thanks for sharing and writing up such an interesting topic!

  5. I think this is great and valuable information. Unfortunately, most of my peers don’t watch the news or read newspapers, so they get their information from social media. Everyone should use these tips so that they’re not in a constant frantic because of hoax’s or illegitimate stories.

  6. There is a scary amount of websites and articles that post fake stories like this. Unfortunately they are shared on social media, like Facebook and Twitter, so much by people thinking they are real, that it spreads the word even further, tricking people into thinking whatever that article is saying. You then have a mass amount of misinformed people on whatever issue that the article is trying to bring up. I think a huge target for this is older people on Facebook, such as my Aunt, who I see sharing plenty of questionable articles. I have to teach her that not everything on the internet is true, because of articles like these. Many people her age don’t even think about that, as they are accustomed to the newspaper, which had real, and truthful articles.

  7. Great title, very attention grabbing. This is a very relatable topic among college students and beyond. Most if not everyone has some form of social media for various reasons. The amount of spam and false articles we are reading is way too high. Some of us read these articles, actually believe them, and then share them for others to fall victim of false stories. Great addition at the end of suggesting helpful tips on how to spot false media.

  8. I’m not sure which is more annoying, the ridiculous fake news posts or the people on my timeline who actually believe and share them. I’ve seen countless arguments started over some of the most outlandish stories that don’t even begin to make since. I’m to the point where I feel the need to fact check everything whether it’s from what seems to be a legitimate source or not. My question is who is getting paid to sit down and write these things? and Why?

  9. I think this is hilarious, because I watched the microwave your cell phone’s origins in a thread on a local site I visit.
    This whole article really just hits on something that’s quite hard to teach, but everyone should have…and that’s common sense.
    I think this whole thing really highlights something much larger, and that is, the problem isn’t with the fake news stories that are ludicrous, but the fact you can’t tell the difference this and the ‘real’ news.
    Very interesting all the same. Well written article, and a nice list to try and give ‘sense’ to those who may be fooled easily.

  10. Unfortunately I’ve been caught in the fake news net a few times myself, which is why this article was so interesting to me. There is actually one other step that I always follow: type the central focus of the article into either Snopes or Politifact. Usually a simple google search will do, as many of these fake stories have at least a few articles debunking them. Unfortunately many people (I’m looking at you Aunt Ruby) don’t check factuality and quickly fall for fear mongering, which is why I’m actually really happy that social media companies are pledging to do something about this.

  11. The author of this post has hit a topic that is very relevant to the society we are living in now. I can not tell you how many times I have been scrolling through Facebook, or Twitter and read a title of a fake article and thought it was true until I looked for more information. Many people are relying on social media for news instead of reading the newspaper or watching the news on tv where there is an editor and you know the information you are receiving is reliable. Some of the tips listed above are very useful and can help the users of Facebook and other social media sites separate fact from fiction.

  12. I really enjoyed reading this and found the topic very interesting. Social media is also something that can relate to, theoretically, everyone and, therefor, is a very relatable topic. Many might have different opinions on this but I have to agree with the stance that the author is taking. The click bait on articles like you mentioned catch a consumer’s eyes very well but your tips on how to spot false media was insightful.

  13. I agree that false news is a growing concern in the social media era. The ability to distinguish fact from fiction on the Internet is an essential skill. The same people that microwave their iPhones probably have 8 search bars installed at the top of their browser and a litany of viruses. Like it or not, the Internet is not a safe place for naive people. These fake news stories also highlight the concerning trend of people blindly believing anything they read online.

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