Fake News. These words have become the new buzzword in news and politics. People on both sides of the aisle, such as Governor John Kasich and former President Barack Obama, have spoken out against fake news calling it a detriment to democracy and freedom. Several fake news stories surfaced in 2016 and early 2017 that potentially altered the course of politics and American life.
One particular story that came out of Florida on a conservative blog called WesternJournalism.com incorrectly reported that Democrats in the Florida State Senate unanimously passed a bill enforcing Sharia Law. This is a system of laws found in the Qur’an that advocates stoning adulterous women, requiring to women wear full burqua dresses and veils, and taking away voting rights for women. Almost immediately people began sharing the article and ranting about how Democrats were out to take away women’s rights, and the rights of Christians. The story, though proven false, convinced many people in Florida and around the country that Florida Democrats were trying to usurp American values; this quite possibly changed many votes and might have altered the outcome of the 2016 election.
Another story that took off online and on social media was a tweet from a fake British sportscaster Simon Rowntree that claimed a crowd at a Trump Rally on election night in Manhattan was chanting : “we hate Muslims, we hate Blacks, we want our great country back!” This tweet caused outrage on Twitter with thousands of Twitter users quoting the tweet and putting in their opinion of this “news” without bothering to check if the story came from a reliable source. Stories like this give people the confirmation bias that they desire so many will retweet and share without checking their sources. This story, like the story about Sharia Law has the potential to change opinions and votes, giving fake news the power to alter the future of the American Democracy.
Fake news is slowly becoming a threat to the integrity of American Democracy and should not become a partisan issue. One way to ensure you do not become part of this epidemic is by checking your sources with a reliable fact-checking website such as politifact.com before you share a news story. Fake news is something that can only be stopped if the public is vigilant and stays aware that there are some people and organizations that will try to deceive people to support their own agenda.