As the world continues to progress towards a fully technologized future, news distribution has gone beyond the traditional means of newspapers and television networks. Nowadays, while many still get their news from traditional media, social media has begun to play an integral role in the spread of news and information. According to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of adults in the U.S. were found to receive their news from social media. However, the intertwining of social media and increased sharing has led to the rise of a new social epidemic — the spread of fake news.
Fake news has always existed but with social media’s ability to reach millions of people around the world instantaneously, its influence continues to grow stronger each and every day. Of all social media sites, Facebook has been a primary target for spreading fake news. The advent of fake news on Facebook is predicated on the basis that ad revenue is generated for the source website by clicks on articles. While companies continue to pump out fake news stories in order to generate a massive profit, this comes at the expense of society as a whole – particularly those who are easily influenced.
This was especially apparent during the general election, during which a large amount of fake articles regarding both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton were shared as a disgusting means of making a profit. Sensational and misleading headlines such as, “Hillary Clinton in 2013: ‘I Would Like to See People Like Donald Trump Run for Office; They’re Honest and Can’t be Bought” and “The Amish in America Commit Their Vote to Donald Trump; Guaranteeing Him a Presidential Victory” ran rampant throughout Facebook during the election. With millions within reach of these headlines, this presented a new issue, as election results could have potentially been skewed in either direction due to the propagation of fake information.
This brings me to the school of ethics known as consequentialism. The aim of consequentialist ethics is to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people, thereby posing the question: “Is my behavior making the world a better place?” This is something that those who continually produce fake news stories need to ask themselves. Is it worth toying with a global superpower’s most important election just so you can buy some guitar amps? While I am faulting the publishers, this is not to say that I’m absolving society from its own guilt. It’s important that we highlight the issue of fake news plaguing Facebook – but we mustn’t be so careless and news-illiterate to the point of inexcusable gullibility.
It’s imperative that we as American citizens smarten up and become more responsible in determining the accuracy of the news we read, especially in the digital age. This means avoiding traps like consulting only one news source, or only associating ourselves with like-minded individuals. Instead, we must engage in meaningful discourse and expose ourselves to outside perspectives. While the issue of fake news is currently plaguing the digital world of Facebook, we cannot continue to let it plague the sanctity of our reality today.
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