Consumers are the solution to “fake news”-they just need to think

Thus, as I’ve said again and again, the answer to “fake news” and the issue of false and misleading information in general is not to place a few elites in the role of ultimate arbitrator of truth, but rather to develop a citizenry that is data and information literate.

Source: How The Washington Post’s Defense Of Its Russian Hacking Story Unraveled Through Web Archiving

Most consumers will not think, however. Many subscribe to online, for profit, social media-based publishers[1] so they can intentionally receive and share propaganda messaging on a daily basis. The desire to confirm one’s beliefs is so strong that many intentionally choose to flood their senses with fake news, which they then share without skeptical questioning.

The problem is that social media is a friction-less conduit for the spread of misinformation. Between consumers that intentionally confirm their biases by soliciting fake news, and then sharing that with “friends” who will rarely question friends – false information spreads rapidly and lives forever online.

[1] The description of “online, for profit, social media-based publishers” was intended to target the new breed of for profit publishers that specifically reach out to emotions of targeted audiences with posts that are usually political in nature. However, as The Intercept documents, the Washington Post engages in the exact same behavior, writing fake stories with inflammatory headlines and intentionally sharing those on social media (which research shows has the potential to generate massive numbers of shares and clicks) . What is the difference between the Washington Post and our original concept of “online, for profit, social media-based publishers”?

Indeed, all publishers and broadcasters with an online presence are logging everything about their online stories and data mining those logs for insights on how to generate more clicks and produce more eyeballs for advertisers. While late to the world of online, for profit, social media-based publishing, the traditional media is embracing the same business models as they struggle to address their loss of (especially) print ad revenue and to retain relevancy in a world where ad dollars are rapidly migrating to social media platforms and online search instead of newspapers and local TV.