What Media Outlets Can Do About Latin America’s Fake News Problem

fake-news

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. Dec. 8, 2021: From disseminating misinformation about COVID19 cures to politicians, especially during elections seasons, fake news has become prevalent in today’s media. While it may be insignificant to you because you’re capable of recognizing it, but for the millions of lives that were affected in making their decisions, it has a great impact in their everyday life. For example, fake news has influenced others’ voting choices which may affect the overall results of the elections, resulting to unfit and unlawful candidates being elected into office.

This issue has become especially prevalent in Latin American countries where its being called a ‘fake news pandemic’ by others. With the issue becoming so critical, Latin Governments are also now making efforts to resolve it. Some of these include fact-checking services, passing legislation, working with social media platforms, and media literacy training. However, with the fact-checking service becoming inactive, others have expressed concerns about the tool being politicized and the credibility of independent fact-checkers being undermined. And instead of benefiting the people, others have raised concerns about the solutions fueling political persecution.

One of the most fatal effects that fake news has given the society is how it threatens democratic systems. The same can be said for the situation in Latin America especially now that it’s their election season. With fake news being spread online, this has influenced the discourse amongst Latin Americans regarding international and local topics. In addition to this, with the COVID19 pandemic remaining an unresolved issue, locals need reliable information more than ever. For example, misinformation can impact their choice to adhere to the mandatory wearing of masks and whether to get vaccinated.

Having established the importance of combatting fake news, it’s worth noting that other institutions can also play a role. Aside from the government, media outlets can also help in battling fake news. As such here are ways local and international media outlets can help in resolving the fake news pandemic:

  1. Call Out Fake News

When information is being published online or offline, not everyone has the skills, knowledge, and resources to verify it. Fortunately, institutions that wish to re-establish trust in news media like news organizations and publications can do this. Along with publishing reliable news, they can evaluate other articles and notify the public if a piece of information is false. Not only does this reflect well on the organization, but it also helps others disregard misinformation. Even social media platforms such as Facebook reduce the visibility of a post when it’s been reported.

In a similar story in U.S. political news, Donald Trump was banned from Twitter for constantly spreading fake news during his tenure as president. While he wasn’t immediately banned, eventually multiple pieces of evidence proved that he was spreading fake news. In fact, by the end of his tenure, during the elections, he kept insisting that the election was being tampered which resulted to the fatal  2021 Capital Riot. All this eventually led to Twitter banning him for good.

Lessening the visibility of fake news by reporting them on digital platforms isn’t the only way media outlets can help. After all, you can only evaluate and verify so much information on the internet. As such, another supporting solution would be to train the public to be media literate.

  • Educate

With millions of information being shared online every day, it’s becoming evident that it’s impossible to totally eliminate fake news. In fact, we regularly create so much content and data that it amounts to trillions of megabytes of data per day, and that’s just on the internet.  One of the best solutions available would be to train others to absorb media responsibly by being media literate. But what is media literacy and what does it mean to be one?

Media literacy is the ability to absorb and comprehend media content and understand its message, plus the ability to identify what type of media it is. By being media literate, you will gain skills such as determining a content’s credibility and sharing content online responsibly.

With regards to fake news, media literacy equips you with the skills to comprehend news and determine its reliability. Consequently, this helps you to report a piece of information online and decrease its visibility. It would be much better if you’ll help eliminate the very source of this misinformation.

For media outlets, they can conduct trainings for the public to be media literate and execute campaigns promoting media literacy. In doing so, they’ll be able to help the public recognize fake news and misinformation. As a result, it can lead to more users reporting and eliminating sources of misinformation and fake news on the internet.

  • Report Responsibly

First and foremost, a media outlet’s fundamental purpose is to share information and report reliable and newsworthy stories. Identifying fake news isn’t enough, if most of the information available isn’t real, then the public needs to know the real story.

With the fake news issue in Latin America, media outlets can take the initiative to investigate stories themselves and report credible information. By doing that, the public can have reliable information about topics that are sensible and up to date. If a reliable news organization is already covering the stories, then the public can simply ignore those that spread fake news.

As an individual, you can do the same by only sharing news and information that are backed up by evidence. Especially if you’re one of those people who love to send long texts then forward them to WhatsApp group chats. Furthermore, you can avoid news organizations who are notorious for reporting fake news that you’re aware of. By doing so, it’ll be easier to consume reliable information without the need to always fact-check them.

However, it’s also possible that there are smaller publications reporting the truth. As such, media outlets can also empower smaller but more reliable and responsible news organizations.

  • Empower Factual Journalism

It’s important to note that not all media outlets are sources of fake news. In fact, it’s possible that others start their own news publications because they fail to find any that reflects the truth. With this in mind, bigger media outlets can help empower smaller but reliable news organizations by promoting and supporting them.

These non-profit journalism organizations are now emerging in Latin America, with democracies in Latin American countries often weakened by fake news when they’re already fragile, these newly found organizations can be considered a public service. This allows the public to rely on better sources of information and weaken the power of those that spread misinformation.

For example, SembraMedia is a non-profit organization in Latin America that aims to support new journalists, in only 5 years it has already identified nearly a thousand new journalism projects in the region.

Meanwhile an example of small publications that media outlets can support are Mexico’s ‘Animal Politico’ and ‘Arena Publica’, two young news publications, which promotes political awareness and fact-based political discourse amongst citizens in Mexico.

  • Utilize Technology

With online platforms slowly becoming major sources of information and news, you can agree that technology plays a serious role in the world of journalism. However, we can’t just limit it to being a tool for sharing and communicating news, because it can also help in identifying fake news without the help of a human being, this is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes into play.

In fact, several organizations, researchers, and individuals have already created software and bots with the same purpose. For example, some researchers at the University of Zurich are trying to use ‘deep learning’ to help A.I. spot biased news articles.

In a similar story, an Italian researcher along with his team are trying to build a software that can fact-check articles, they called this project Fandango. With the intent to combat fake news, they built this in hopes that it can detect fake news independently. Another example is Grover which is a system created by computer scientists in the University of Washington. Unlike other technologies, their strategy was to teach A.I. how to write fake news first then detect it.

Ultimately

The information you consume affects the way you see the world and the decisions you make. Spreading fake news doesn’t only affect everyone today but it also affects the future. As stated, fake news’s impact can be so immense that it can start a riot and jeopardize the health of others. Plus, the fact that media and the press hold such a strong power over the elections of their countries.  This is why weakening the power that fake news holds over our lives is important, battling it will not only help shape the news industry but will significantly change our perspective.

Fortunately, institutions aside from the government can contribute in combatting this issue. Institutions like news publications and other media outlets are doing the best that they can in combatting this issue. As a responsible member of society, you can help combat this issue too by participating in the solutions previously enumerated.