News – fake or genuine – comes at us from all directions, day and night, as part of the digital network integrated into our lifestyles. In some cases it hits a soft spot, creating an audience reaction and leaving considerable emotional residue long after the announcement has faded – even if interest is fleeting.
Point is, there’s so much audio and video variety through the channels to diverse populations that fake news – when it sticks – can have dire implications.
This article provides a comprehensive overview of the fake news debate to put things into perspective. But, most crucially, it should give you the ability to receive broadcasts with a different mindset and weigh things up to distinguish between what’s accurate, half-true, and hot air.
What fake news is, and what it’s not
When you drill down misleading communications, we see three distinguishing traits:
- Stories that outright lie: In other words, figments of someone’s imagination that lead gullible people into a fabricated reality.
- False stories that come disguised as fact: Communicators springboard it off something true, only to twist the conversation into distorted meanings and nuances.
- Mislabeling accurate news as fake: This creates a wall of doubt around information previously accepted as reliable and significantly informative.
When followers vest themselves so emotionally in a set of beliefs, it’s nearly impossible to convince them there are two sides to every story.
Because “they” said so
In the democratic world, we encourage liberal expression of viewpoints. Indeed, social media platforms depend on it, spurring almost anyone to share their thoughts. But opening the floodgates can let forth a slew of uncoordinated views, allowing them to wash over people, and when those views reinforce existing beliefs – valid or not – viewers are content with glibly repeating things like “they confirm this” or “they deny that”. Why? Because, of course, “they” implies authoritative sources, and that’s all that counts.
There’s an assumption that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, being billion-dollar public entities, have the stature and, therefore, a level of integrity we should take for granted. That’s not exactly how it works, to put it bluntly. Free expression means anything goes, and listeners must exercise extreme caution when assessing the source. The trouble is that most of the time, they don’t.
Andrew M. Guess, Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler (Princeton, Dartmouth, Exeter) conducted a relevant study. They discovered that more than a quarter of the American population (over 90 million) visited at least one fake news website over one-and-a-half months during the 2016 presidential election. So, it’s hard to believe that the eventual outcome had nothing to do with distorted information swinging votes firmly into one camp or another.
Moreover, word can spread like wildfire once a false headline is out. Sorting out fact from fiction becomes an impossible task as counter-arguments pop up with as much emotional conviction trying to swing opinions back on track.
Fake news in the workplace?
Even in reading this article, you’re quite right to ask, “Where is this information coming from?” So, before I give you some mind-blowing statistics, I want to profile their source – Leadership I.Q. The latter offers groundbreaking research under the direction of Mark Murphy – a New York Times bestselling author and a regular contributor to Forbes. Although his study occurred in 2017, the ramifications are still pertinent today. It covered 3,272 respondents from leadership positions in the professions and business – representing community frontrunners.
Remember that harmony in the workplace depends on mutual trust, tolerance, and respect for team skills and talents. Coordination may collapse if staff believe it’s no longer necessary to back up reports with credible sources. Even if they do, many in the team declare they don’t think the data is valid – dismissing it as “fake news.” These are alarming signals. Mark Murphy’s study found trends that gravitated severely against the fundamentals of a stable internal environment:
- Around 90% of the respondents were significantly acquainted with the term “fake news” – with more than 60% of the latter majority saying they were troubled by the distortions and over 30% declaring they were alarmed.
- About 57% admitted that people passed false information and got away with it.
- The manifestations of the above are that close to 50% of all those surveyed observed the following workplace changes:
- A readiness to criticize others’ viewpoints.
- Make excuses.
- Dismiss new ideas without much consideration.
- Around 40% noted an increases in:
- Finding scapegoats.
- Treating opinions with undisguised sarcasm.
- Rudely interrupting presentations or contributions from peers.
- Reverting to exaggeration to hammer home points of view.
- A significant minority pointed out escalations in employees:
- Becoming openly hostile (36% of respondents).
- Outright lying (27%)
It looked more like an HR foundation trying to find a foothold in quicksand than the bedrock that creates employee retention. Instead of enthusiasm to make the next project more successful than the last, misinformation, rumor, and conspiracy theories are more likely to sap the participants’ intellectual energy.
How to know fake news when you see or hear it
Fake news frequently relies on shock value to get the audience fired up and to encourage them to react in an unorthodox way.
To combat it, don’t dismiss information it without a thought. Instead, treat it as circumspectly. Remember, the sender has gone the extra mile to inject believability into the content. Sometimes they’ll deploy 90% of the truth to get you to believe the 10% lie. So, as thought-provoking as it may seem, do your due diligence on every front. This means:
- Taking a step back to keep your emotions in check.
- Use common sense to get a “feel for the validity” in the article. If it sounds wrong, it probably is suspect.
- Ask yourself what the news is achieving.
- Always question the news – how credible is the bridge from where you stand to transition where they want you to be?
When you get a handle on the motive, it’s an excellent start to uncover the credibility behind the broadcast. Here are some quick Google-related searches and other internet checks that take you to the crux of the matter:
- Verify the author’s credibility from results that emerge around the name.
- Search the title for similar articles and substantiate the content’s key points.
- Widely different accounts of the same event are flashing red lights.
- Grammatical errors – especially spelling – are generally a fake news giveaway.
- Applying tools such as Google Reverse Image Search will afford you insight into image reproduction and possible alteration.
- Fact-checking sites like Snopes offer quick routes to uncovering too-good-to-be-true stories.
- Verify the web address – look for strange configurations (i.e., Infonet or offer).
- Where there are backlinks as references, check those out. Sketchy data sources, or ones that divert significantly from mainstream authorities, kill credibility.
- Trust news coming from Reuters, CNN, or BBC as a rule. They’re a robust backdrop to verify the information.
- When you see the same video or images circulating for different stories around the same subject, it sometimes indicates the news is outdated. However, not always, as updated visions are hard to come by.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself with distrust, believing that every media outlet is crooked or self-serving.
Both employee experience and customer experience rely on clear communication and trust. If you’re working to strengthen culture and grow engagement, ensure you’re hearing the truth from those around you. Start by asking questions, listening to the answers, and building understanding.