Reviews and Research

Fact-checking Social Media Content

Since the introduction of the first social networking site in the 1990s, the use of social media has continued to be on the rise. Recent statistics released by We Are Social shows that the number of active social media users in the world has increased to 3.484 billion users in 2019; which represents 45% of the world population and a 9% increase in the number of social media users between 2018 and 2019. This increase in the number of social media users reflects the growing popularity of social media platforms in our society today. As a result, social media is gradually becoming a default medium for communication and social interaction. Among the many functionality and features that social media offers, social media is being used as a platform for advertisement, entertainment and news. However, the increased use of social media as a news outlet or source of information provides an avenue for the propagation of false information or fake news which is becoming an epidemic in our society today. In view of this, various social media and other online platforms are starting to put various strategies in place in order to limit the spread of false information (e.g. ahead of elections in India). Government officials in the UK are also weighing in on efforts to combat the rise of fake news and YouTube is rolling out a new feature that is aimed at fact-checking content across its website.

Noble as some of these strategies might be, I think more can be achieved if every social media user plays their part in the fight against fake news. The growing adoption of social media, as well as the ease and speed with which information is shared on social media means that false information tends to spread rapidly. We are often quick to share content on social media without realising that the content we share thrives on the credibility of the person sharing it. When people receive or view information through social media, the logic often tends to be – this person is usually honest and has a good reputation; therefore, this information they have sent or shared is true. Consequently, false information continues to move from one credible person to another credible person until it becomes difficult to distinguish what is true from what is false. However, if we all make a conscious decision and effort to verify the authenticity and credibility of every information we see or receive on social media before we share it, not only would we have the opportunity to be educated on the truth, we will also be reducing the rate at which fake news is spread until we win the battle against fake news. As a general principle, if I can’t fact-check or verify a piece of information, then I don’t share it.

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