Oct 29, 2015

Satire News Sites - Funny But I'm Not a Fan

Are you guys aware of the rise of pseudo-news websites?  Every once in a while there's a "too ridiculous to be true" style article, and then I check and it's usually from The Onion.  The Onion was one of the first fake news website I became aware of, but they're definitely on the rise and I've seen an alarming trend.

More and more of these fake news stories are being shared on social media (especially Facebook) and presented as actual fact!  People say things like, "The state of our nation is so sad" or "I can't believe stuff like this really happens!"  But the thing is, a lot of us did believe it, because lots of terrible and ridiculous things do happen, and sorting out truth from satire isn't always as easy as people make it out to be.

I'm sure there's some self-righteous, condescending intellectuals who will say, "Anyone with a scrap of common sense can tell the difference."  But you know what?  Without even going into the portion of our society lacking in that virtue, some of these sites are getting really subtle.

Ok, so "The Onion."  That's a fairly bizarre name for "news" and it stands out, so if you learn once that it's satire, you'll remember.  But "NBC.com.co"?  I think that's a pretty clear attempt to confuse potential readers into believing it's from NBC News.

And, honestly, with controversy over whether news websites even report facts anymore (to me it certainly feels like everything is slanted one way or another, and most headlines exaggerated to bring in more views) maybe that's their intention.

Maybe, satire news site are deliberately making it difficult to tell which is which in order to get people to question things more.

Would that be a bad thing?  Not necessarily.

Most people, myself included, have been guilty of sharing a fact with someone that was actually incorrect.  A fact that they read or heard somewhere, accepted at face value, and never bothered to research for themselves.  If, like me, they were particularly stubborn, they not only shared this fact but stood behind it in debates and arguments until actual research articles were provided that proved it factually incorrect.

The problem is, with the "rush" to get things done quickly and absorb as much information as possible as quickly as possible, false information is only becoming more prevalent.  And a lot of people don't know the difference between a "good" source and a bad one.  Or they don't know how to do the research to verify the "fact" they just learned.

So we pick something up from "the news," or Reddit, or even Facebook and that's our information, our truth.  It's what we believe until absolutely forced to reevaluate what we "know."

And if that's the problem that satire news is addressing, then I'm all for it.  But it won't fix anything until people actually know that satire news is a thing.  Because right now the existence of satire news is not making (most) people question the veracity of the articles they read.  Satire news is just an additional purveyor of false information.

This is my PSA.  It's a 2-parter: 1) Don't believe everything you read.  2) Learn which websites are reliable and which aren't.

With the explosion of satire news sites, it'd be impossible to make a list of all of them (although About.com tries).  Since you can't know for certain when you get to a site whether it's legit or bullshit (if there's any sort of legally required disclaimer, I don't know of it), you have to cross reference.  My current strategy for fact-checking?  Snopes.com for current events and websites ending in .gov or .edu for research.

Other than that, I don't really know what to do, other than try to think about what makes a particular website a reliable source, and then cross your fingers once you've decided to trust it.  Or ask Reddit.  Those guys are pretty good about doing their homework.

Oh!  And while I'm on this topic.  Here's an even more disturbing trend.  News websites, perhaps feeling the crunch of needing new topics almost constantly, have begun pulling stories from Reddit and presenting them as "news."

Anyone remember reading that story about the guy who bought all the pies at a Burger King in revenge for having to listen to the bratty child in line behind him?  Yeah, that was a (pretty dubious) story on Reddit.  The ending is what makes me really doubt the story, "I stand there and pull out a pie and slowly start eating eat as I stare back at her. She starts running towards me but can't get to me because of other lineups in the food court. I turn and slowly walk away."

I mean, how cheesy is that?  It's like some kid's movie or tv show where they always have the ultimate comeback or revenge scheme.  In real life you'd just crankily get in your car and drive on.

However, true or not, the fact remains that it's not a fact!  There's no witnesses, no facts, just an anonymous guy on Reddit who was most likely motivated by fake Internet points.  But that didn't stop Daily News from reporting it as a real story.  They even made a video using nothing but their "reporter" and the text of the person's post!  There's links to make it look legit, but they all go to the same place - the original post (which has been taken down and someone else had to share, because the author of the post has deleted his account).

And this isn't unusual.  I've seen tons of stories by "news sites" shared on Facebook that I've already read on Reddit.  Fake news is everywhere, and satire websites are just the newest iteration of this phenomenon.

So I guess the moral of the story is this: Trust No One.

Do you like satire news or does it bother you?  Have you ever gotten a fake news article confused for real news?  Do you read Reddit and if so, isn't it annoying how everything shows up on Facebook a week or two afterwards???


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9 comments:

  1. I wish more people would fact check before they share online, the amount of eye rolling I do some days is completely unnecessary.

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  2. Honestly I had no idea there were so many fake news sites. The Onion, I think, is spectacular because they manage to really pull of satire correctly and use it to comment on the current *actual* state of things. But there are two big problems leading to a completely misinformed population: one, media is really doing nothing but fear-mongering anymore—it's sad, really, how both sides of the coin are terrible at reporting facts, thanks to the rise of the 24/7 news station/cycle. And two, people read headlines and think they're getting all they need to know from the story, so they don't read the story. It's really frustrating to hear or see people sharing things having just read the headline or skimmed the first paragraph. As far as I'm concerned, you have no business being outraged online about an article you read unless you at least took the simple and basic step of reading the whole damn thing first.

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  3. the NBC.com.co threw me the first time I saw it. I hate satire news sites. I usually try to check snopes before sharing anything.

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  4. The link I shared last week about the Yelp lawsuit against South Park was a fake. My husband had sent it to me and I assumed it was true so I was like meh. I questioned its authenticity but it was too funny to not share. I dont believe half the shit I read on credible news sites anymore to be honest. The media says whatever they want to get you to think how they feel about a topic. They twist words to make them seem like something else and well honestly I am sick of all of it! I read The Skimm every morning and that is all the time I have for news anymore,

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  5. I love The Onion and enjoy satire. But I tend to rely on news from the Washington Post website or some other traditional news site for information. If I read something on Reddit or Facebook, I always double check on other, more credible news sites. Also, watch out for sites that pretend to be legitimate news but are owned and operated by a conservative or liberal group with a clearly defined point of view.

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    1. I don't even know where to get reliable news anymore that isn't slanted. I've had a few people suggest BBC, since it's International and they don't have our country's reasons to lie, hype, or twist the information. Reddit is kind of awesome, because half the time they provide the sources for you for where the information came from! Facebook not so much.

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  6. I really don't like satire news sites. For one, I simply don't get it. How is this fun? Why would I want to read a fake new site when I can just go read those things that people slave over for years, with those character thingys and plot stuffs? You know, fiction. Or hell, fanfiction. I don't get what the point of creating and reading these sites is, exception to prove how gullible and, forgive me, stupid we are.

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    1. Not that I think we (or anybody) is stupid. It just seems to be the one assumption these sites are operating on.

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  7. i had no idea there were so many.. to be honest, i don't like news sites in general, they are all biased one way or the other, but i definitely don't dig the satire ones. okay, the onion one is fine but the ones who are deliberately trying to trick people? not cool. not cool at all.

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