PRACTICAL ACTIVITY 2 ‘LET’S MAKE THE FAKE NEWS ITEM OF THE YEAR’
With social media, there is more and more viral fake news that keeps us from having a realistic view of current events. Sometimes, fake news even targets a particular group, which stokes fear and hatred or just spreads misconceptions.
To get a better understanding of how fake news is made, you are going to pretend to be a manipulator of information and make up a fake news piece of your own.
Definition: When people talk about ‘false information’ or ‘fake news’, they are referring to information that has been fabricated, falsified, or distorted and purposefully spread by individuals, activists, or political officials with the intent of manipulating the public and converting them to their ideas.
Characteristics of a ‘good’ fake news piece:
- Sensitive subject: Fake news often spreads so much because it deals with topics that are sensational, political, emotional, extraordinary, or dangerous. In general, fake news plays to our fears and prejudices.
- Well-structured: The information may be false, but that does not mean that it is not well structured and built around (false) arguments.
- Good headline: This is very important because the headline is usually what gets people to click on or view the article or post.
- Good visuals: Regardless of whether they are true or not, articles and news are usually more compelling when accompanied by an image, photo, or video.
- Posting: For fake news items to have an effect, they need to be posted to multiple social networks (Twitter for political fake news, Facebook for sensationalist fake news, Instagram for faked photos and videos, etc.).
IT’S YOUR TURN!
1: Choose a catchy topic – Your choice of topic will have a big influence on your post’s or article’s impact. It is okay to start with a general topic and then narrow it down.
Example: health => medicine => the effects of radiation on the human body
2: Find an attention-grabbing headline – It should both summarise the main idea and pique curiosity.
Example: ‘Doctor in China revives patient with gamma rays’
3: Write down several arguments to support/enrich your fake news – Writing down your arguments will help you write and produce your fake news. To do this, you can use different information manipulation techniques, such as taking information or a quote out of context, creating a false witness report, or creating links that do not exist between real events or facts.
Example: 1. Define gamma rays 2. You can restart the heart of a patient in cardiac arrest 3. Gamma rays are used in medicine (radiation therapy and radiosurgery) 4. Take a quote out of context 5. Invent a fake statement from a doctor in China 6. Etc.
4: Write your fake news piece – To write the article, you need to develop the arguments you wrote down before. As for the writing style, it is better to imitate journalistic or scientific articles to make your fake news article seem credible, but do not forget that your goal is still to convince readers.
5: Choose a visual – You need to choose a picture that give the best summary of your fake news and shows the people in the story.
6: Compare your fake news – Now that your piece is finished, you can show your friends how you did it and compare your results (whose fake news was the most credible? The most original? The funniest? Etc.). You can even try to trick your friends but be careful, you absolutely must remind them that this is an exercise to help you recognise manipulation techniques and spot fake news. If your trick works, remind yourself that thousands of other people may subject you to fake news every day, and those people are not your friends.