The most anticipated US election was held almost ten days ago and the world watched Donald Trump from Republic Party surprisingly won the election, beating his more experienced rival Hillary Clinton of Democratic Party. However, the story doesn’t finish there as besides some questions about what the next president is going to do to the world and what his cabinet will look like, there is also another side of story behind the ballot that raises a big concern in the digital world: The increase in fake news pieces circulating on social media.
Fake news stories during the election
People rely on news to obtain accurate information about everything. However, in this modern era when social media plays a role and the internet becomes our basic needs, it is very tricky to distinguish which one is real news and which one is the fake one. Ironically, these fake news pieces were mostly posted on #Facebook and people believed it without cross-checking.
According to the findings of BuzzFeed News analysis, fake news pieces posted on Facebook proved to engage more readers than accurate news materials from mainstream media outlets such as Huffington Post, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post, and so on. During the most critical campaign period, false news stories from hoax news websites or partisan blogs got 8,711,000 shares, comments, and reactions on Facebook.
Data from Facebook monitoring tool also showed that the top 20 false news pieces generated more comments and shares than the top 20 real news stories shared by mainstream media outlets. This is crazy, isn’t it?
Fake news the reason Trump won?
Ironically, fake news stories posted on Facebook also paved the way for Trump’s presidency, thanks to the contribution of fake news creator Paul Horner. His news articles went viral and he earned US$ 10,000 a month for fabricating inaccurate news stories. According to his interview with Washington Post, Trump’s followers read Horner’s hoax site all the time and they didn’t fact-check what he wrote. Moreover, he also claimed that Trump is in the White House because of him. Horner itself intended to ridicule Trump through his misleading works.
Why do people believe false news? Simple. Because people are easily and emotionally influenced by both positive and negative posts, regardless the accuracy. For example, two of the most popular false stories were about the Pope endorsed Trump and Clinton sold weapons to ISIS. Both stories generated 1,749,000 engagements during the three-month period before the voting day.
Will they allow it on social media in the future?
Trump's road to Presidency is also linked with a Macedonian teenager helped Trump win the presidency by creating 100 hoax political pro-Trump websites.
This phenomenon raises lots of questions: How to identify false stories and real stories? What if mainstream media outlets post inaccurate stories or vague, biased opinion? Does Facebook do little to stop the distribution of misleading contents?
Well, it is not always easy to spot false contents. When we receive the broadcast message, we often get emotional and share it right away. We never think whether it is true or not. We can stop distributing hoax stories by refraining ourselves. Try to fact-check before you truly believe it.