Keri Hilson once said, “We live in such a gullible world. Anything that’s written, anything that’s posted, anything picture that is interpreted one way is taken as truth.” In today’s society, it doesn’t matter where information is coming from because fake news can be spotted anywhere even where it is least expected. Especially in today’s standing century where people of any age have an easy access towards any type of high technology having both an advantage to post/publish whatever they want and the disadvantage for them to know what material is actually accurate. This then leads to people being gullible enough to believe such atrocities, leading towards false information to be shared and flood through people’s social media thus making all of mankind believe the misconception just because they saw it on the internet and now has to be taken as truth.
There have been several cases that people believe headlines they see in their local social media. Just as it happened on July 6, 2013, when the Bay Area’s KTVU Channel 2 News had revealed false information on the severe Asiana 214 plane crash that had just occurred that evening in San Francisco’s local airport (Daniel). The plane tragedy had a total of three hundred seven people aboard and had approximately one hundred and eighty-two people injured and sadly six lives were lost being two passengers and four of the flight pilots. The news station wanting to be the first media outlet to reveal the shocking story. The broadcasters received and confirmed the pilot’s names by a strange summer intern from the National Transportation Safety Board and without any hesitation the broadcasters went ahead and viewed the information to be accurate. Although the managing editor Michelle Toy had a skeptical view on the Pilots names, despite what she thought she went ahead and approved the list given the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board had already given the news station the approval. Being naïve, the broadcaster never bothered to ask for the person’s name or their position in their employment (Daniel). Being eager to report the tragedy the newscasters rushed to go live without even glancing over the names at least once or even phonetically sounding them out. Falling for the summer intern’s prank the news reporters aired every single pilots’ name wrong in such a ridiculous manner in these exact words, Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow. When the news production realized their devastating mistake, they immediately apologized to all of their global websites, but unfortunately, that didn’t stop other major media outlets from spreading their irresponsible mistake (Daniel). Even though this misconception was a mistake, the false information was still spread to millions of people leading to the firing of three newscasters. As to before the incident had even taken place, KTVU was seen as a reputable news station. Failing to detect the fake news not only caused a stain in the KTVU’s reputation ,but it also racially offended the Asian community and the families of the deceased pilots that lost their lives that day making the families believe that the tragedy was being taken as a joke ( Fung). As the president of the Asian American Journalist Association had stated himself in the following words, “ Those names were not only wrong, but so grossly offensive that it’s hard for us at the Asian American Journalist Association to fathom how those names made it on the broadcast”.
In 2016, Edgar M. Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington D.C. and fired an assault AR-15 rifle in the restaurant (Haag). Mr. Welch had recently read online messages posted on several social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook that Comet Ping Pong was harboring children in child kidnapping, molesting, and trafficking rings(Kang). He believed the fake news to the point that it concerned him and decided to take matter into his own hands and help rescue the helpless children. Having to drive about more than four and a half hours from North Carolina all the way to Washington D.C. Mr. Welch only fired at least three shots with his AR 15 rifle pointing the gun at the innocent employees what he thought were criminals working at the local comet ping pong pizzeria (Haag). Although when he had already shot his fire Mr. Welch had realized there was no sight of any harbored children in the scene. Not harming any individual in the restaurant, he peacefully surrendered to the police for he did not mean to cause no harm other than to rescue the children. Several news articles claimed that the pizzeria was being identified as the headquarters for a child trafficking ring that was being led by then Secretary of State and democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Haag). This false story was widespread across the web on sites including Facebook and Twitter with the intention to cause fear in the 2016 presidential election campaign happening just days before the election took place. Having people such as Mr. Welch, who was identified by friends as a doting father who loved the outdoors and supported family values as their target to believe the fake story( Kang).In court Mr. Welch pleaded guilty and was charged with four counts including felony assault with a deadly weapon (Haag). Although no evidence of harbored children were found at the restaurant Mr. Welch apologized for his actions and lamented he could not undo his actions, fake news continued to appear as people who decided to believe the claims, especially the ones that wanted to gain political advantage, continued to distribute the fake news in platforms such as social media.
Another tragedy that also led society towards a misconception was the chibok schoolgirls kidnapping that took place on April 14, 2014, when an extremist terrorist group called Boko Haram abducted two hundred seventy-six innocent girls from their government secondary school in Nigeria (Busari). The Boko Haram terrorists loaded them into trucks and only fifty-seven girls were able to escape. However, sadly they had to jump off trucks resulting in the girls to have either broken arms or legs. The terrorist group kept the remainder of the girl’s hostage for they believed that the Nigeria school system was breaking free from their traditional Islamic education (Busari). As soon as the tragedy was called upon the global audience was asked to pressure the government to rescue the students. Many celebrities such as Michelle Obama and Malala had taken the catastrophe to their own hands and protested with the phrase, “bring back our girls”. On the other hand, the government insisted that the chibok girl kidnapping was nothing but a hoax leading several people in Nigeria to be easily deceived and believe that the chibok girls were never kidnapped (Busari). The hoax narrative only delayed the rescue operations. Still today, the fake news that the crime never happened still persists. The families of those who were kidnapped were in despair for their daughters to return home because they believed and had full proof of their daughters kidnapping when Boko Haram had filmed a video of the chibok girls to show proof that their daughters were still alive (Busari). The people of Nigeria were incredulous of the story only because the government had said it was all a lie. This only anguished the families more knowing they were not receiving support from the government and the Nigerian community. This case is a prime example of the consequences of fake news. People lose trust in the media nowadays because news is fabricated to misinform about government’s lack of action or mistakes, personal agendas, or simply to create chaos. This results in real news to possibly be regarded as fake news.
Fake news is a problem because we believe the content or in many cases, we decide to believe it. Many could easily believe this unique to the millennial generation. Big names in the major news outlets such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have fallen for reporting fake news other stories that are wildly bizarre are also fooling people and are being shared on social media, and there are others that surely know the content is fake news and still spread the media. Definitely gullibility helps to create a market for fake news. Misinformation leads to poor decisions about matters that are consequential, and it is difficult to correct and has lasting effects even if the news is publicly discredited or denied. To ensure fake news is not spread, we the ordinary citizens have a major role to stop it. We have to be skeptical and ask ourselves if what we share is legitimate, why is the story being told, what is being gained by sharing the story, and if there is a hidden agenda. Questioning misinformation is not only the responsibility of the journalist, but for society to take responsibility in what they have read and shared.