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Moving toward a world with zero fake news.

Summary: Two months ago, The New York Times published an article titled "Fake News: Wide Reach but Little Impact, Study Suggests" by Benedict Carey.

Two months ago, The New York Times published an article titled "Fake News: Wide Reach but Little Impact, Study Suggests" by Benedict Carey. The article focused on a study done by researchers on the consumption of "fake news." Upon analyzing adults' browsing histories during the U.S. elections in 2016, researchers noticed that although fake news managed to reach a huge percentage of Americans, true news was always present in their reading.

For instance, the study showed "one in four Americans saw at least one false story, but even the most eager fake-news readers -- deeply conservative supporters of President [Donald] Trump -- consumed far more of the real kind, from newspaper and network websites and other digital sources."

But what is fake news? When did the term emerge?

A few years ago, the term fake news was not well-known or used by many people. However, since 2016, the term's usage has risen by 365 percent according to the Collins Dictionary and it was labeled as Collins' World of the year in 2017. Hence, the Collins Dictionary will add the term fake news to its next edition, defining it as "false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting."

Nowadays, with the internet invading people's lives across several platforms, the world is considered to be an open place for people to share information and knowledge. Thus, exchanging misinformation became easier than before. But although fake news and disinformation does not always have a huge effect, it is certainly misleading for some people, as it is easy to access.

So, how can it be countered?

There are several ways to counter false news and disinformation. First, if fake news is encountered, detailed news to counter this with the real information should be presented to the audience. Second, the population's awareness is essential in order to be able to classify news as fake or not. Third, false news or misinformation should be reported.

But how can readers classify news as fake in order to proceed to countering it?

In Italy they have started working on both sides of the countering process. The government has created a web portal that will receive citizens' reports on online content they think is doubtful. Meanwhile, and in order to raise awareness and institutionalize citizens' knowledge in differentiating between real news and fake news, the Education Ministry has started a media literacy program in 8,000 Italian high schools. The program teaches students how to filter the information they receive and classify it as false or accurate.

Many other countries are starting similar initiatives. By narrowing the scope to our Arab world, the "Alexandria Media Forum" is tackling the topic this year in its sixth forum in April under the title, "How to fight fake news and how do we know it is fake." During the forum's three days, participants will be part of roundtables discussions and interactive workshops discussing topics such as "the fine line between censorship and controlling fake news," verification (data, pictures, geo and video), international journalism standards and fake news, new media platforms and fake news, and other topics.

Building up the process of countering fake news in different countries across the world is an important step toward achieving a world with no fake news. But the question remains: Will we reach a world with zero fake news?

Nahla El-Zibawi is project coordinator of the Outreach and Leadership Academy at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Mar 3, 2018
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