Debunking Denialism

Fighting pseudoscience and quackery with reason and evidence.

Tag Archives: fake news

Wikitribune: New Initiative to Fight Fake News


Basic idea of Wikitribune (CC BY 2.0)

There is a new contender on the block for helping to fight the impact of fake news. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has decides to create a new initiative called Wikitribune. The goal is to provide a highly credible source of news that is not driven by advertisements or clickbait and thus avoid low quality and misleading content. The core idea is to combine professional journalists with a community of volunteers to ensure that the information is authored, updated and fact-checked and verified in such a way as to provide credible information.

On the Internet, anyone can publish almost anything without regards for what is factual and what is just nonsense. This has brought some great benefits, from anyone being able to post their opinions or find any information they are looking for online. However, there are also some limitations. People can isolate themselves into ideological filter bubbles where they only see and read information that has been skewed and misrepresented in a specific direction in order to provoke intense emotions, including fear and anger. This has recently been weaponized in order to influence world events, from general elections in the United States to pitting different groups against each other. By making stuff up about the news that provoke people (called fake news) and sharing low quality clickbait on social media, these fake news providers are able to make millions of dollars in ad revenue. Even political advisers have deliberately pushed false information as if it was factual by labelling those falsehoods as “alternative facts”.

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Facebook’s “Fake News” Crackdown: Here’s How It Works

Facebook tackles fake news

Fake news is content that attempts to look like real news, but is not based on reality. It contains major falsehoods and errors of fact. It is not merely accidentally misleading, but crafted to intentionally deceive people. Fake news stories often manipulate human feelings, such as anger, sadness and schadenfreude. That way, they are more likely to influence their beliefs about the world and people are more likely to share it on social media. This brings in a ton of ad revenue for the fake news network creators and keeps their operation going.

However, more and more people are reaching the point where they have had enough. Fake news degrades the quality of social media content and has the power to influence human decisions about health, current events and potentially even elections. Giant tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook are increasingly starting to realize that something has to be done. Suggestions that have been proposed include manual quality filtering of news websites that are included in certain news apps, not allowing the worst fake news offenders to use their advertisement system and others.

Just a few days ago, Facebook began to deploy their mitigation systems against the influence of fake news. What does it consist of? How will it work in practice? Will it work? How could it affect the efforts of fact-checkers, science advocates and scientific skeptics on social media?

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Takes a Stand Against Fake News

Tim Cook versus Fake News

For many decades, science advocates and scientific skeptics have been fighting misinformation on the Internet. False claims about evolution and climate change have spread like wildfire and there are many organizations and individuals out there that take great pleasure in spreading pseudoscientific nonsense about these scientific fields to anyone who wants to listen. The Internet is a great invention and has allowed more people than ever to access the depth of human knowledge, but it also has a dark side. It is now possible to be wrong about a great deal of things, yet quickly find large communities of mutually self-reinforcing discussions that share those misconceptions. So, in a sense, fake news is a not a new problem.

The pervasive problem with fake news came to the attention of the public and the mainstream during the 2016 general election in the United States where a ton of websites and other outlets spread sensationalist misinformation about both Clinton and Trump in order to get as many clicks and as much ad revenue as possible. Unfortunately, this led to a very uninformed population that harbored a lot of false beliefs about the world. In particular, fake news website often published content that aimed to make people upset and angry, because manipulating feelings has been shown to be very effective for spreading a message.

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Current Battlefields in the Misinformation Wars


The spread of misinformation has never been greater. The Internet has been an amazing resource for people to access millions of scientific papers on everything from the molecular biology of cancer to climate models. However, it has also brought with it a terribly cost: misinformation can spread much easier than carefully considered facts and has the ability to emotionally manipulate millions of people into believing this that are demonstrably false. This can influence personal beliefs, consumer decisions and perhaps even national elections.

Although this is not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination, malignant threats such as post-truth, fake news, filter bubbles, “alternative” facts and fake fact checkers have spread enormously in recent years. This article takes a closer look at each of these threats, what they mean and how they can be fought. Although there are no simple answers at this point and skeptics as well as scientists struggle to find workable solutions, there are a few clues available.

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Rise of the Fake Fact Checkers

Fake fact checkers

There is a growing assault on facts. The dark forces that scientists, doctors and scientific skeptics have fought for decades have now rapidly metastasized and forcefully exploded into the mainstream with the rise of concentrated misinformation and fake news that are reinforced by filter bubbles. People isolate themselves in social media communities that block contradictory information from ever reaching them. The intention to provide people with personalized results has had terrible consequences.

Those in power and those who profit from obscuring the truth are making every effort to destabilize democracy and undermine confidence in the mainstream media as well as scientific and medical organizations. This has led to the notion that we are currently taking part in the so-called misinformation wars and pro-science advocates are currently struggling with how to revolutionize science communication and skeptical outreach.

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8 Skeptical Tricks For Spotting Fake News

Fake news

Fake news have recently rose to prominence as a powerful force of misinformation. It has portrayed random young people as missing, identified people as perpetrators of heinous crimes they never committed, influenced general elections and even started social media fights between nuclear powers. We now live in an age of the misinformation wars. Not just misinformation that floats around passively, but misinformation that has been weaponized to serve political ideology or lining the pockets of charlatans and quacks.

Social media websites like Facebook first denied that there was a problem, then admitted that there was a problem and then promised to take action against the worse of the worst misinformants by cracking down on their ad revenue and even went so far as to promise collaboration with independent fact-checkers. While this is laudable, it will not be enough by any means. Individual users must take a personal responsibility to stop falling for fake news and stop sharing it on social media. The reason for sharing it does not matter as social media algorithms do not care about the reason you had for sharing it. Here are eight skeptical tricks to help you identify fake news.

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