When fiction becomes fact

Social media is becoming an increasingly manipulative platform for its users.

Casey Nguyen, In-Depth Editor

The line between fiction and fact is blurring and growing narrow. It is a known fact that journalists should only report the truth. Nevertheless, as of recently, journalism has become a source for writers of fiction to misshape fantasy into reality.
Many news articles are intentionally false, thus purposely misleading their readers. These articles are referred to as “yellow journalism” or “fake news”. “Fake news” was a term that many did not use. During the 2016 presidential election, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump made his battle with fake news publicized.
Now, fake news is seen as a great threat against democracy. It is the phenomenon that is sweeping across online media. These fictional and made-up stories are masterfully manipulated to appear credible and with the assistance of social media, they easily spread like wildfire.
Social media has begun to shift to a new era. Gone are the personal pictures and status updates. Now, it is one of the main ways people get their news. Some of the primary platforms used to read news include Facebook, Twitter, and even Google. These sites inform users of upcoming and essential events that occur.
However, their reliability can be questioned. Social media can be considered a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is easy to access information, allowing users to consume and share the news. On the other hand, it can make “fake news” viral in an instant.
“I no longer trust my social media accounts to supply me with real information because of all the lies I find in them,” junior Tiyo Kebede said.
Fabricated articles with headlines such as,“FBI agent suspected in Hillary email leaks found dead in apparent murder-suicide” originate on satirical websites. These websites could be misunderstood as factual, especially when viewed on Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook feeds.
According to CNBC, the most known and most prominent fake news story in 2016 was an article with the headline, “Pope Francis shocks the world, endorses Donald Trump for president.”
The story was originally published by a site called WTOE 5 News, a website that publishes satire or fantasy news stories. According to Buzzfeed, the story was shared more than one million times on Facebook.
Most recently, in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, those who suffered fell victim to fake news. Just a mere few hours after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, people looked for information about the topic. Instead, they were met with bogus and fictional reports. For instance, it was claimed that a New York suicide was linked to the mass shooting.
“In times of crisis, people are trying to look for answers. Instead, they find nothing but lies,” sophomore Jane Kim said.
As of recently, social media platforms have begun to do their part in stopping the spread of fake news. According to U.S. News, Facebook has already started flagging potential fake stories and making it easier for users to report them. Twitter has also worked on developing a program that assists flagging fake news.
Today these social media platforms are more likely to be linked to their potential harm for manipulating public opinions and influencing elections rather than being user-friendly social activities for others to communicate to friends and family. The flow of misinformation must be stopped.