Just the mention of the word fake triggers so many emotions. Fake currency, fake brands and even fake smiles! But, the menace of fake news makes me wonder if I should put on a mask before surfing the net. With a heavy presence of toxic content on the Internet, it is difficult to trust any piece of information. It only takes a spark and fake news spreads like a chain reaction.
For instance, a fake video showed the Hurricane Irma hitting Puerto Rico with roaring sounds. In reality, the storm just passed over the country. But, the video was retweeted 30,000 times and people believed it to be true. Similar instances have plagued the Internet recently and point towards a mushrooming issue.
Misleading the world
Fake news is a full-time industry now and people are employing all the technology at their disposal to make it look real. You will be surprised to know that even you can superimpose an actor’s facial expression on a live video of e.g. a famous leader, to completely change the meaning.
Fake news wreaks havoc in the daily lives of people. It can be used to spread misinformation, make people anxious and even frame innocent people. A recent survey showed that almost 52% people believed that online news sources published fake news. Further, 29% people believed that social media sites like You Tube and Facebook are mostly responsible for spreading fake news. (Source:https://www.statista.com/statistics/649234/fake-news-exposure-usa/)
But what is the impact of fake news on the business world?
The damage is real
The corporate world is not untouched by fake news. Fake reviews about products are misleading for customers and are eroding their trust. Starbucks recently fell prey to fake online promotion where a false communication from the company’s twitter handle promised free coffee.
The agribusiness giant, Monsanto, was in for an even bigger shock when its pesticides were wrongly blamed for microcephaly (condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than the normal size) in Brazil.
Add to that, several half-baked truths about a company’s product or service experience which can easily dent the reputation of a company. The effect is so damaging that instead of reading reviews on the Internet, people now trust the advice of their friends for buying a product.
In fact, a multinational company recently threatened to withdraw their multi-billion-dollar digital advertising contract from Facebook and Google if they failed to stem fake reviews. This is just a sign of things to come. More companies will threaten to withdraw if some concrete action is not taken to stem this issue.
A tough fight
As a result, companies are scrambling to fight fake news. They are updating their algorithms and even working with start-ups to combat fake news. With Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence tools, companies are trying to block the misinformation coming from bots and humans. A few are even hiring fake news creators to identify fake videos. Regulators have also employed currency ‘fabricators’ to check the circulation of counterfeit currency.
Countries are also tightening the regulatory framework to combat the growing menace of fake news. Germany is acting tough on illegal posts and will levy a fine as high as €50 million for sites which post fake news.
However, a really encouraging step is the joint effort by web companies and journalist to educate people about fake news. Massive drives in school are being undertaken to encourage children to identify fake news at the outset.
If you come across a news item, which you find unlikely or strange, do one of the following:
- if it has implications for you – try finding an alternate source e.g. different media, ask your network, … (i.e. use source criticism as you would have learned in school)
- if it has no significance to you – ignore it and forget it!