The Internet is free, open, far-reaching, and available to everyone. Its invention represented a new era for sharing information. Yet these strengths can also be weaknesses. From the very beginning, some people used the Internet to spread lies and misinformation. More recently, they have been getting pretty good at it. Welcome to the era of "fake news."
A fake news story has three key ingredients. The first one is the most straightforward—the news is simply false. Maybe it's one little fact, or maybe the whole story is a work of fiction. But something in there is not true. After all, fake news is called "fake" for a reason.
The second ingredient is where things get tricky. Fake news stories are always made to resemble the real thing. The story might appear on a website that looks and sounds very official. It might also look like people are talking about the story a lot on social media. But in reality, these people aren't people at all. They're often just bots that are sharing a fake news story to make it look real.
The third ingredient of fake news is that there's an agenda behind it. Real news is just news—it's something that happens. Fake news is a weapon. Someone out there is spreading it with a goal in mind. This goal might be political, like using fake news to hurt certain politicians or political parties. It could also be financial, like using fake news to make money. But make no mistake: there's a reason behind every fake news story.
Fake news is everywhere on the Internet these days. Companies like Facebook and Google don't want to get involved with deciding what is "real." As a result, many people can't identify fake news when it shows up in their social media. That means you must always be alert, and question what you read on the Internet!