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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Editorial: Fake news on Facebook hinders political discourse

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Facebook Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg |TNS

Although the election has passed, social media is still a haven for articles, thinkpieces and commentary on the presidential candidates — now focused more squarely on President-elect Donald Trump.

In the oversaturated, under-moderated mess that is social media, it’s become increasingly difficult to tell which stories are trustworthy and which aren’t.  

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to reports that Facebook was spreading fake news about President-elect Donald Trump and candidate Hillary Clinton with stories saying that the Pope endorsed Trump or an FBI agent suspected for Clinton’s email leaks was murdered. Critics have suggested that the false information spread by fringe websites could have influenced the election that lead to Trump’s win.

Zuckerberg denied any responsibility by saying that 99 percent of what people see is authentic and that the company is working to reduce the distribution of false news stories on the site. The website has also surveyed users about whether they feel put off by the abundance of fake information that circulates the site.
There have long been concerns that Facebook has become an echo chamber for users who turn to the site as their sole source of news and only follow outlets that confirm their political views.

While we’ll likely never know what effect, if any, fake news spread on Facebook had on the election, it is still vital for the site’s users to be aware that untrue stories exist en masse and that they can be dangerous to political discourse.

According to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of Americans get all of their news from social media accounts, with Facebook being the most popular site. That means Facebook is the main news source for most Americans, making it harder to filter fact from fiction as users pick and choose what they want to read.

First of all, Facebook is not a news site. The dangers of reading misleading, partisan news reports that only confirm our biases triple when we log on to networks that we’ve designed solely to fit our own likes and dislikes. In the Internet age, media literacy has taken a nose dive and often perpetuated the idea that the news media is complete propaganda.
It’s not Zuckerberg’s job to give us the facts, we have to take it upon ourselves to be informed and media-literate. Readers should research the sites they are visiting and look for facts, credibility and reliable reporting.

Here are some tips on scrolling through your Facebook feed while avoiding the traps of unreliable news:

-If the headline of the article uses exclamation points, it’s probably not credible. If the headline has more than one exclamation point, it’s definitely not credible.

-If the headline starts with “You won’t believe … ” it’s probably not accurate — and probably not that unbelievable.

-If the website has the words “liberal,” “conservative,” “Republican” or Democrat in its name — such as LiberalAmerica or Conservative-daily — it’s not an objective source of news.

-If the website has the word “occupy” in its name, it’s probably not objective.

-If you can only find one article about the story online, the information in that one article probably isn’t true.

-If the article is a slideshow that requires you to click through, it’s probably not worth reading.

-If the article is an open letter to somebody, it’s probably not news.

-If there is no reporting in the story and it’s all aggregated from other sources, it’s probably not trustworthy.

-If the article uses tweets as the main sources of its content, the “news” is probably not verified.

As readers and social media consumers, we understand how difficult it is to wade through the swamp that is social media. But as journalists, and citizens who want to be part of an informed generation, we beg you to look beyond Facebook for your news.

And the next time a distant family member shares a story from Infowars.com, we hope you’ll fight the good fight and share these tips.

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