Don’t believe everything seen on the internet

Fake news.

Thanks to social media, misinformation now has a limitless platform, capable of reaching millions with little to no regulations in place to ensure the information is even true. With a federal election set for October, expect the number of inaccurate or flat out false news articles to be shared through social media to spike in overwhelming quantities.

Fake news goes beyond a misprint or honest mistake. Rather it is the practice of concocting a completely made up story, usually to play to the fears of one particular group of voters.

Tracking the origins of a deliberately inaccurate article can be difficult. Often times they’re shared by online groups who have their own agenda, but make every effort to hide their political leanings. Sure, by reading the articles they share one could probably deduce which way they’re trying to steer the reader, but for the most part they will keep their political colours hidden. Those that produce the made up content are banking on readers not bothering to do their own research, accepting everything they present at face value.

A study published earlier this year by Princeton and New York University found baby boomers—those over the age of 65— were far more likely to share intentionally false or misleading information through sites like Facebook. Interestingly enough, they found that there was no one particular party that was more likely to share it than others. Perhaps it makes sense that the generation that grew up in a time when media outlets were more bipartisan would be more trustworthy of an article they find online. Most inaccurate articles do a rather fine job of impersonating legitimate news sources. They’ll even go so far as to cite facts and figures, once again counting on the presumption that the reader won’t take the extra step to double check their claims.

Naturally readers are more likely to believe or share an article that supports an already preconceived notion about a particular politician. For example, a Conservative may readily believe Justin Trudeau ‘pleaded with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to allow one million Nigerians enter Canada under a new Employment and Migration Programme designed for immigrants’ as one article from a CBTV website claimed. That story has been discredited by all major news outlets.

Liberals meanwhile would likely be more prone to believe an article that paints Andrew Scheer in a bad light, without stopping to check some of the facts and figures cited to support the article.

In February, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh was the subject of a deliberate falsified story when an article claiming he owned a $5.5 million ‘super luxury home’ began making the rounds. The obvious intent was to make it seem as though the NDP leader was living a luxurious lifestyle, one that could possibly cause disconnect with his voting base.

When it comes to election time however, it’s a voter’s responsibility to cast their ballot based on facts. It’s perfectly fine to prefer one party over another, but to make that selection based on inaccurate information would be a mistake.

-Adam Prudhomme

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