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Know Your Sources

DREW JOHNSON Jon Jee Staff Published: January 26, 2017 8:00 AM

As technology seems to consume the world, inventions like the Internet begin to become everyone's main source of information. Although some of the things are true, a lot of the so called “news” on the Internet is not true at all.

The origins of fake news really took off when in 1938 Orson Welles caused a nationwide panic when he broadcast “War of the Worlds,” a radio dramatization of aliens invading the earth. He had no idea that his hoax would induce so much panic. People ran about the streets and tried to escape on highways. Police officers were begged to give up their gas masks and electricians were told to shut off power to people’s homes so the aliens could not see them. There were rumors the show even caused suicides, but nothing was ever confirmed. The FCC investigated and found that no laws were broken. Welles even scored a contract with a Hollywood studio. In 1941 he produced, wrote, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane.

While Welles’ prank was taken to the extreme by many people, others appreciated the entertainment. Most readers today of fake news sites follow Welles’ legacy by trying to prank their gullible friends and it make those articles all the more fun.

Fake news sites like The Onion make fake news stories purely for viewer entertainment. Much of their content finds its way to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook where a fair amount of people actually believe the “breaking news.” News stories on The Onion are typically so far fetched and hilarious that it is hard to believe people actually find it to be factual. Some of the most recent and attention-grabbing articles include, “Biden Sadly Realizes This Could Be The Last Time He Throws Lit Firecracker Into Press Conference,” “Doctors Warn That Only 1 In 20 Americans Deserves A Good Night’s Sleep,” and “Sea World Introduces New 5 Pound Orca Burger.”

Other common fake news sites are “Abcnews.com.co,” “Conservative Tribune,” “The New York Evening,” and “White House News.” Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website has now created a section on their site dedicated to fake news. To help combat the confusion of what is real and what is far from the truth, Facebook and Google have erased all of these sites from their advertising networks, making it harder to uncover some stories. Others have taken it upon themselves to compile a list of tips for spotting fake news.

The first tip to deciphering fake and real news is watching out for website that end in “lo” or “.com.co” because these sites are often fake versions of real news sources that take factual information from the real sites and pad them with false or misleading facts. The tell-tale signs of a fake website are a bad web design, odd domain names, or the use of all caps. Most importantly, if there is little coverage over the topic of the article by reputable or well-known sites, there is a high possibility that the article is fake. Always be sure to read multiple sources such as The Huffington Post or Fox News to corroborate any information.

From the 1930s to now, fake news has consumed the minds of people who are gullible enough to believe it. Just remember to always check the facts and never believe everything at first glance. There is always a chance of being misled.

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