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Internet Safety – Fake News, Clickbait and Propaganda (Part 2)
A large majority of people will have fallen prey to fake news, clickbait or propaganda during their time online, probably too many times to count.

Although many of us would like to think we’re too savvy to get caught out by this kind of thing, the fact is that some of it is harder to spot, and the methods employed by the individuals responsible can be quite sophisticated.

While most everyone is familiar with red-top tabloid sensationalism, and many choose to avoid that kind of reporting, it’s harder to tell when the source is online (unless, of course, it’s a red-top newspaper website).

 

 

Clickbait

Clickbait is incredibly common. In fact, you’ve probably seen it mocked in some of its forms, such as “Try this one weird trick…” or “You shouldn’t do these five things…” or even “They can’t stop you if you do this one thing…” (with no context of who “they” is, in this circumstance, of course, the clue is usually in the image attached to the article advertisement.) These headlines and titles (and often images) are designed to get you to click through to the article to gain ad revenue for the site hosting it – that’s usually their only purpose.

Unfortunately, many legitimate news sources have also taken to using a similar kind of headline to encourage people to click on and read their stories, so it can sometimes be hard to tell. Often, you’ll find that stories you see in advertisement sections are just clickbait and offer little to no useful information, usually spread over several pages to maximise ad exposure revenue.

 

Propaganda

This form of fake news can be more insidious than others, mostly because it’s political in nature – and some interested parties will stop at next to nothing to spread misinformation our outright lies in order to sway voters to their cause.

Looking critically at articles and headlines is the best way to combat this form of fake news – although because of the nature of these articles and their goals, their methods can be quite complex and deceptive; sometimes disingenuous.

Many people can be caught out by these kinds of stories because politics and society are, historically, something that people often have a strong opinion about. Much of the time these headlines are designed to be emotionally manipulative; to evoke strong emotions, usually against the opposing parties, and sometimes against other citizens.

Propaganda is also sometimes “outrage bait” – where a story is reported in such a way as to provoke a specific emotional response, usually a negative one, in its readers. These kinds of stories can be dangerous for many obvious reasons – general advice is always to take a step back and apply critical thinking to the subject before reading, responding to, or sharing the article.

 

Next week, we’ll have a look at how you can combat fake news and misinformation in all its forms, including steps you can take, and how to help others close to you who may have fallen victim to fake news or exaggerated news stories.

 

Need help or advice to keep your team safe and secure, or have questions about IT security? We can help! Give us a call on 0121 312 1500 or email us at info@geek-guru.co.uk
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