by Samia Warsame

Everyone has seen it. Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook and noticed that shocking story appear on our feeds and hit the ever-tempting share button. Later, news breaks that the story is a hoax. In what sometimes feels like a 24-hour breaking news cycle, online fake news  which can range from humorous to dangerously political, has a tendency to spread across social networks. Fake news is usually defined as websites that purposely publish stories that are usually rife with propaganda, and disinformation. Most sites depend on social media in order to boost web traffic. Websites such as Abc.com.co and 70news.wordpress.com usually attract readers using exaggerated headlines. Titles like “Police Find 19 White Female Bodies In Freezers With ‘Black Lives Matter’ Carved Into Skin” or “Trump Offering Free One-Way Tickets to Africa and Mexico For Those Who Want to Leave America” are splashed everywhere, picked up by other sites and create a ripple effect where everyone is affected. In 2016, the prevalence of fact abuse, especially on the political scene, gave rise to a spreading of fake news with almost unprecedented speed. A recent Buzzfeed data analysis has found that viral stories that were falsely claiming that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump, or that Hillary Clinton was indicted in the murder of an FBI agent received more clicks on Facebook than actual stories from credible outlets like the New York Times and The Washington Post.

So, how can people stop the spread of fake news? “Stopping fake news is not easy, but informing each other on what’s true or false can help curb [the problem].” said senior Saima Haque. Many newspaper websites have created browser extensions to pick up specifically on fake news stories. The “Fake News Alert” extension created by New York magazine journalist Brian Feldman, is available on Chrome and identifies hoax news articles on Facebook. Facebook has also added an option where users can report fake news articles which are taken down once enough members have flagged it. Despite what most pundits say, fake news is a problem that needs to be solved quickly in order to lessen the atmosphere of fear and untrust in our country.