Fake News

Fake news. We’ve all seen it. It’s all over Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms. It’s become a lot more common recently, and a lot weirder. It’s basically when people just make up stories for no real reason. Like when 12 year old boys talk about how they fought an 18 year old felon and broke his arm, or a wee girl with a ‘mysterious’ rockstar boyfriend that no one has ever seen. People just lie.

Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious when it’s fake news, like “Nigerian President Died and Replaced by Clone”. Yes, that is an actual example, like come on. But, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it is fake or not. Do you ever wonder why all of those promised new McDonald’s McFlurry flavours never got released? Why you never saw that 80 litre tank of Strongbow Dark Fruits in your local Tesco for a tenner? Okay, that one should’ve been obvious.

Now not all ‘fake news’ is the same. There’s clickbait (the old “Doctors HATE Her” articles about how to lose 18 lbs in 3 seconds; propaganda (90% of Brexit’s Leave campaign lol); parody/satire (basically sounds like it could be true but is really just someone having a laugh) then there’s bad journalism and misleading headlines. They all pretty much just make people believe lies for various reasons; some want you to try a new £30 meal replacement, download a virus app, sway your political views, or just change your opinion on something. Nothing screams ‘great political party’ like one that has to lie and alienate the public into thinking that it’s better, does it?

Of course, we’ve all seen fake news designed to make celebrities look bad, like The Sun claiming Noel Edmonds was moving to New Zealand because he refused to give them an interview. I know, it makes no sense to me either, as if moving country is the ultimate revenge. But what’s caught my attention a lot recently, is fake news that’s designed to cause negative views and opinions at certain groups or about certain issues. Here’s some examples I’ve seen on my Facebook newsfeed:

“Feminists call for gender neutral Santa”

“Feminists call for babies to be changed to ‘theybies'”

“Transgender community call for Trans James Bond”

“LGBT adding ‘P’ for ‘pedosexual'”

“Muslim refugee shoots 15 people in nightclub”

Why would feminists campaign for equal pay, an end to FGM, child and forced marriages, rape and abuse when there’s a Santa at stake? Who cares about rights when there’s a fat man in a red suit to be had?

Why would members of the transgender community want equal treatment and less discrimination and abuse when they could have James Bond? Let’s put all that aside for a buff man in a tight suit.

Better than James Bond

These stories, although fake, are harmful. They are targeted at already controversial groups in society, who face backlash on a daily basis: feminists, transgender people, the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims – even vegans are victims of this. These stories are designed to make people roll their eyes and complain about these groups. They’re meant to give these groups bad reputations and keep them and the issues they fight for a taboo.

Some people brand all Muslims as ‘terrorists’ because of the actions of Islamic extremists like ISIS. They face so much discrimination and sectarianism already, they don’t to have another FAKE ‘reason’ to have people treat them unfairly.

Feminists fight for the equal treatment and rights of females across the world. But how can they campaign for change for serious issues like rape, when their FAKE association with Santa is grabbing the headlines? How can they encourage people to get behind them and support their work when no one’s taking them seriously and people think that they’re just “being awkward”?

These negative stories are detracting from the positive ones about these groups. So when people do a little research into what they do or are campaigning for, they’re met with these bogus headlines. Muslims are branded as terrorists, feminists are branded as matriarchal men-haters, the LGBTQ+ community are branded as attention seekers, vegans are branded as, well, vegans. Anyway. These are just some of the groups who are victims of fake news stories, there are of course a lot more, but these are just some of the recent ones I’ve personally seen.

Fake news is more than a few computer hackers having a laugh and pulling a prank on the general public. It’s more than ‘satire’ and sarcasm. These fake stories are malicious. They’re giving close-minded people ammunition and supposed “reasons” to hate others and what they stand for.

So who’s writing these stories? Sure, it’s individuals with a lot of time on their hands. But it’s also established sites and Facebook pages. We all know that you can’t trust everything you read online and you shouldn’t always take things at face value, but the fact is that there’s always going to be people who do believe it. These “news” stories may be a “joke”, but it’s not funny if it leads to further discrimination and exclusion against a group and their beliefs.

So yes, be careful what you read and what you believe. Before judging a group based off a UniLAD post, do some research and see what they’re actually about. Then by all means, judge away. Don’t share fake news stories. It’s literally the online version of spreading vicious rumours. It may seem funny and like a joke to you, but it’s actually causing harm to others.

And no, Dominos aren’t launching a 40″ pizza for £20. Spoiler alert.

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