fake news

Did You Know That People BUY Followers?

In an era of fake news, it comes as no surprise to me that a thousand or a million likes on social media platforms are actually fake.  Celebrities and politicians buy fake followers to boost their popularity and to move political agendas.  Yup! Companies like Devumi offer Twitter followers, views of YouTube, plays on SoundCloud, and endorsements on Linkedin – often for as little as a few cents per follower. It doesn’t just stop here in the US, this is happening in China, Ecuador, and all over the world. According to Rami Essaid, founder of Distil Networks, a cybersecurity company that specializes in eradicating bot networks, “Social media is a virtual world that is filled with half bots, half real people.”  What you see on social media may not be what you think it is.

What’s wrong with insecure people buying followers – kind of like buying friends?  It makes the rest of the population feel insignificant by comparison.  So many young people suffer in silence as they see how popular others are.  Aspiring artists and musicians feel depressed when their follower stats are low. 

I hope cybersecurity companies can reveal true numbers and shame abusers of the system so we can establish some sort of semblance of real facts and real news.

U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" is Fake News!

Be careful when reading the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of “Best Colleges” because, well, the buzz among college advisors is that it is FAKE NEWS!  Yup.  Their rankings are really just measures of parent affluence and cater to the wealthy.

3 reasons why rankings are skewed:

1st: Student Selectivity:
Students who have better grades (private tutoring), strong SAT/ACT scores (private tutoring and test-prep programs), and don’t need financial aid (apply using Early Decision) have parents with deep pockets.

2nd: Faculty and Student Resources:
Professors who receive higher salaries and students who receive more resources cause tuition to skyrocket – often discouraging low-income students from applying.

3rd: Legacy Admissions:
Wealthy parents who donate generously to their alma mater, receive preferential treatment when their children apply for admissions.

Because parents rely too heavily on these college rankings, colleges redefine where their marketing dollars go to ensure that they inch their way up the U.S. News & World Report rankings. What’s missing in the criteria for these rankings is the college experience with professors, programs and opportunities.  Instead of reading these fake news rankings, read what the students say about their classes, majors, careers, and reflections.  Isn’t that what really counts?

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Teaching Kids to Vet Fake News

Did you know that Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say, “Let them eat cake!”? Yup!  Fake news has been around for centuries and as you can see, it this particular statement has been repeated so often that it has ended up in our history lectures still today.  But today fake news is so prevalent that most students (in all grade levels) don’t have the critical thinking skills to decipher what’s real and what’s fake.  So here are ways that teachers – and you – can help students wade through all the propaganda thrown at them.

According to teacher Scott Bedley (who was interviewed by NPR’s Sophia Alvarez Boyd), you can play Simon Says to encourage students to make their own educated decisions about what’s true and what’s false in the news.  Students should consider the following before answering:

  1. How reliable is the source? (Was it written by a major magazine or legitimate expert?)
  2. What does your gut say? (Does it sound possible?)
  3. Does it make sense?
  4. Can you find 3 other sources to verify this same finding?
  5. Have experts in the field commented about it?
  6. Does it have a copyright?

Bringing awareness about how easy it is to create fake news on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media is the first step in preparing students for wading through the junk they read on the internet. Then making sure that students don’t perpetuate or inadvertently spread these lies by sharing news that they don’t carefully vet is the next step. These are things that we all need to do to maintain truth in social networking and information sharing.  Instant access to information can be a blessing and a curse.

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Worried About Fake News?

Here’s a Fact Checker’s Guide for detecting “fake news”:

Back in the day, media sources were limited largely to TV newscasters and journalists for newspapers and magazines. Journalists like Walter Cronkite delivered the news and we believed every word. Although “fake news” was not a thing back then, we knew whether the news leaned slightly left or right. 

Today, social media and the internet make it possible for anyone to conjure up propaganda under the guise of legitimate news.  While this is super bad, what’s worse are the people who “share” these articles on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites.  By endorsing fake news, this misinformation can spread like wildfire.  People often share these stories after reading only the headlines, without even bothering to read the articles.

So here are a few tips to check if you’re reading Fake News.

  1. Check the article’s website
    Real: ABC News = abcnews.go.com
    Fake: ABC News = abcnews.com.co
    ** “.co” is an internet country code domain for Colombia
  2. Check the “Contact Us” page
    Fake news usually doesn’t have a Contact Us page
  3. Check the byline of the reporter
    Fake news journalists usually boast ridiculous claims
  4. Check for fake quotes
    Fake news makes claims from Snopes.com about legitimacy of the article
  5. Check the sources
    Fake news will not have links to sources
  6. Check the ads
    Fake news will have inappropriate ads
  7. Check search engines & sites dedicated to identifying fake news:
    Field Guide to Fake News Sites (Snopes.com)
    RealorSatire.com

The best way to stop fake news is to think before you share!

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