Opinion | Social media can be a valid news source

Fake news being propagated on a given platform isn't an excuse to ignore everything that you can gain from it.

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Peyton Downing, Opinions Editor


With the world’s population becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet for communication, many have taken up the habit of getting their information from social media like Facebook and Twitter. While this is a worrying development for many, it is a necessary and important shift in how we gather information in today’s age.

There has been a growing debate about the relevancy of social media in regards to the news industry. From Facebook not removing demonstrably false political ads to Jack Dorsey removing all political ads on Twitter, the role of social media and political outreach are intertwined at this point.

Before getting into the meat of the argument, it is important to note that the majority of people still prefer getting their news from non-Internet based sources. People who watch the news prefer TV, whereas those who read go on the Internet.

Another note of interest is that it is the youth bloc that is leading this trend toward digital. As time goes on, this trend will more than likely grow at a faster rate as older generations pass on and younger generations grow up.

The issue with this development is not the existence of fake news in and of itself, but of a lack of media literacy in readers.

This is not to disparage anybody without media training — the entire purpose of fake news is to confuse and obfuscate.

But it is necessary to understand that fake news will always exist whether we want it to or not. The way to address this is by learning how to identify it, not ignore and label anything we don’t believe in as fake news.

Not every statement made in a story needs to be questioned, but sources regarding statistics or research should be followed through on. Just as the old adage goes: “Statistics don’t lie — people who use statistics do.”

If it’s something of severe importance, don’t get it covered from just once source. Go to multiple different websites and see what they’re saying —or if they’re not saying anything at all. If a given story is being ignored by other outlets, that might say a bit about the situation at hand.

Fake news is not only prolific, but its effects become more pronounced over time. That is to say, the more fake news you consume, the more likely you are to be fooled by fake news in the future.

Almost half of Facebook’s users who get their news from the site get it from there alone. While different sites might be linked throughout a given Facebook feed, the website’s algorithm will show similar websites of your interests. This may sound obvious, but relying on any one given tool for all your information is not a wise decision.

Ultimately, social media is a tool. It’s not inherently good or bad, it is how we use it that makes the outcomes good or bad, same as anything else.

It’s perfect for learning what is going on in the world by having trends and news outlets get stories onto the public’s radar. It’s not necessary to believe everything social media algorithms put on a feed to have it be a useful tool.

Even just by following a few outlets or reporters, your feed will have more than enough news running through it. Aaron Rupar and Ken Klippenstein are just a pair of reporters I can think of off the top of my head who provide credible stories and information on a daily basis.

Ultimately, fake news isn’t going anywhere. It’s a profitable scheme for both people who make it and those who benefit from it.

Rather than dooming a given medium as being a hellhole of fake news and misinformation, it should be our jobs as citizens to learn how to discriminate between truth and falsehoods.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


 

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