Americans are responsible for researching what they read online

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Americans are responsible for researching what they read online

Ava Fasciano

Ava Fasciano

Ava Fasciano

Zoe Hussain, Staff Writer

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As you scroll through your Instagram feed, you may come across pictures of your friends at a recent party, a couple of dogs, a humorous meme, and a new headline. The headline reads “Jennifer Aniston creates a ‘Celebrities for Trump’ group,” and, without thinking, you immediately absorb the information being fed to you and move on without a second thought, assuming it to be a fact.  After all, it was on Instagram, and was posted by a “news account,” so it must be credible.

However, unbeknownst to many, numerous websites, such as conservativesociety.net, spread this kind of fake information via social media platforms with little to no proof.  Due to the effectiveness of social media, a single individual re-posting or sharing false information can lead to more people becoming uninformed, which is ultimately detrimental to our society.

With Robert Mueller recently making headlines for charging 13 Russians with interfering in the 2016 election using social media as their primary method of influence, it’s easy for Americans to view fake news as a threat.  

However, does this mean we should regulate Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and other popular social media apps? Or would regulating these apps be considered a violation of freedom of speech?

Fake news is nothing new.  Yellow journalism dominated U.S. newsstands in the early 20th century, with these newspapers’ headlines often complete with scandals and its articles telling stories relying on heavily uninformed sources. At the time, this form of fake news was used to increase newspaper sales. With the ever-growing success and popularity of social media today, fake news has another platform to prosper now.  In response to such a resurgence, many people have turned to social media sites and apps to regulate the spread of fake news, but then this raises the important question: who is to say that truthful information and news won’t be suppressed with this kind of regulation?

“How can sites determine what or what is not fake news?” said sophomore Mia Accetturi. 

If social media sites seek to regulate fake news, what will be the standards that are implemented to decide which news reports are worthy of removal?  The idea of social media sites regulating our headlines is a slippery slope, and is simply not worth the risk.  Government agencies could have a tremendous influence on what is considered fake news, leading to censorship.  In this way, the term “fake news” may even come to refer to any ideas that reflect beliefs that go against a campaign’s agenda.  

Though we may like to think that the social media sites we use on a daily basis are free of influence from our government or other political agendas, it is a reality that many politicians use social media as a way to promote themselves and appeal to the masses, especially thanks to its easy and wide accessibility throughout the nation.

 “I don’t think it would be possible to effectively control fake news.  There are too many new people joining every day and too many users. Billions of retweets and reposts happen every day, it is not likely social media sites will be able to even stop fake news before it spreads to the masses,” said sophomore Ashley Yeung.  “It would become a game of whack-a-mole without clear guidelines.”

According to the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law abridging free speech or of the press.”  If the regulation of news by social media sites becomes biased or influenced by other parties, truthful information that contains controversial news may be suppressed. 

 “Valuable opinions could be silenced,” said sophomore Christine Worms. 

An example of the government censoring media is the Federal Communications Commission’s fairness doctrine.  This required radios and broadcasters to present controversial music with talk of drug culture in a balanced way.  However, this attempt to stop the glorification of drug use actually led to the suppression of valuable music that critiqued drug use and revealed to listeners the dangers of it. 

 “People think they are educated when all they saw was a headline on a fake news article,” said senior Mia Verras.  “In order to combat this, we should be taught to not trust every headline and check sources.  In order to create a true opinion or understand a current event, we need access to all types of news.”

The primary enemy of fake news is the human mind.  In our fast-paced, social media-oriented world, we should start to educate our kids on the prevalence of fake news, and the importance of questioning the information they are exposed to online.  Fake news may be an epidemic, but the responsibility to stop it does should not lie in the hands of government or websites: We, the people, should be at the forefront of combating it.

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