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3 strategies to tackle online propaganda

How to handle fake news: tips by an infiltrator.



Malcolm X once said: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Throughout the 2016 US election, you’ve probably heard the words ‘fake news’ more times than you can count Donald Trump’s lies.

From Slate, the Guardian, to the New York Times, the mainstream media became fascinated with how propaganda, or fake news stories, plagued the minds of millions of Americans and others around the world.

But propaganda is all giggles until it’s used as a cyberspace tool for political purposes, to possibly get a US president elected, as Standard Digital suggested. Only then, do things start to get real.

There’s still much that needs to be learned about fake news and how it evolves into powerful propaganda. Nevertheless, upon doing some research, I found three strategies that might help eliminate propaganda from spreading.

1. Tighten Up Fact-Checking

In the newsroom, the staff member most likely to make mistakes are the interns. Therefore, editors should pay close attention to interns, as a significant amount of them lack several skills, including fact-checking.

According to the Washington Post, over the past couple of years, fact-checking has grown in different newsrooms, specifically those who report on politics.

During the election, fact-checking became crucial in stripping Donald Trump of his lies. However, when bypassed, propaganda can significantly discredit a publication’s credibility. Today, fact-checking is far from bulletproof. But many newsrooms could still use a makeover.

2. Restrict The Unpaid

If you take interns out of the equation, the people most likely to make bad mistakes in news articles are those who don’t get paid. Reporters, correspondents or writers who aren’t paid enough, or at all, usually don’t fact-check enough. And in some media outlets, editors don’t review published work of bloggers.

Additionally, the unpaid or low-paid may turn to search engine optimization, a massively growing market, to make a quick buck. In 2009, Matt Cutts, the former Google search mogul, built an online form where users can anonymously submit claims of pay-to-play.

One scammy-looking company, Serplogic, offers the sale of full-featured articles to big-name news outlets for a hefty price. The services are performed by reporters, and at times, editors of well-respected media channels, for strangers of all sorts.

It’s crazy to think that journalists are engaging in straight up pay-to-play — but hey, money talks.

3. Don’t Feed Online Communities

Recently, social media has paved the way for online communities like Reddit or 4chan to spread hoax stories on the internet.

Reddit, one of the most powerful online communities, is known for feeding false stories to the media. One such story, in 2016, involved a man who purchased a yak while high on sleeping pills.

Yahoo News, Metro, and, all reported on the story. However, none of the reporters bothered to contact the owner of the yak for verification.

And so, the fake news story fooled many people, including mainstream media reporters.

So now you know, if the only source comes from Reddit or 4chan, then it’s likely a hoax.


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