Fake news

12 Sep 2018

Fake news is any information that is deliberately or accidentally false, often published with the intention of misleading the public, damaging an entity, or gaining financially.

Although ‘fake news’ was not a term most people were familiar with even a few years ago, it has since become infamous and was in fact named the 2017 word of the year. It is not a new phenomenon, with evidence of fake news found as early as the 1700s, when George Washington wrote that he left public office due to the false writings in newspapers by “infamous scribblers”. However, the digital age has caused fake news to spread with greater ease through social media platforms, leading to disastrous effects for organisations and nations around the world, such as causing corporations to lose profit, deepening social divisions along racial or religious lines, and hampering the democratic process.

What are examples of fake news?

  • News satire that uses humour to contextualise and make fun of events
  • News parody that creates fake stories for comedic purposes
  • Propaganda created to influence public perceptions
  • Falsely stating negative things about the character of a person or entity
  • Manipulation of images or videos to create a false narrative
  • News that is fabricated and has no factual grounding
  • Advertisements trying to gain profit by lying about their costs
  • Advertisements that appear to have been created by news outlets

Why is it dangerous to spread fake news?

  • Baseless fear is stirred in the public
  • Resources are wasted as the authorities check the validity of claims
  • Reputations are hurt when false allegations are made
  • Innocents lose money to scams
  • Social divisions are deepened, potentially causing social disharmony

How can I teach my child to spot fake news?

Sit together with your child at their digital device, like the computer, and teach them these tips about spotting fake news. Where possible, go to different news sites and search random news stories.

  • Check the source: try find news from credible sources that have a good reputation, not just through your friends or social media
  • Decide on reliable news sources: discuss with your child which sources they think are reliable, and come up with a list of 3 sources
  • Confirm with these reliable sources: encourage them to check news stories against your agreed list of 3 reliable sources
  • Look at the About Us or Contact Us pages: fake websites often don’t have these pages, or have very little helpful information on them
  • Check the language: when an article has lots of spelling or grammatical mistakes, it is a sign that it is not true
  • Go to the experts: together, explore websites such as Snopes and FactCheck, who have teams who verify whether popular news stories are true or fake, and Factually and AskST, who check the truth of Singapore-based stories
  • Do not share: encourage your child not to post, share, or forward stories that they receive without checking it