Fighting Fake News with Critical Thinking

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas kristen Indonesia

Having critical thinking dispositions and abilities, one will not take things for granted but questions, analyzes, evaluates, and synthesizes what he reads and hears before drawing a conclusion Thus, he will able to discern legitimate information from misinformation, lies, and nonsense.

Fake news, defined by HLEG (2018) as “all forms of false, inaccurate, or misleading information designed, presented and promoted to intentionally cause public harm or for profit” has emerged as a problem that endangers public life. The propagation of fake news in the form of hate speech, fabricated stories, manipulated content, slander, and clickbait after the 2019 parliamentary and presidential election in Indonesia, for instance, almost disrupted the nation’s unity. White (2017) states fake news is “a problem that threatens the very roots of modern democracy.” Infodemic that has been spreading more quickly than the current coronavirus pandemic has been endangering public health all over the world.

Fake news is not new. Propaganda, a type of fake news, for instance, has been around since the era of ancient Greece. Fake news will also keep on appearing because it offers many incentives to its makers. Politicians often generate and endorse fake news as part of disinformation promotions to further their political agendas. According to Allcott and Gentzkow (2017), several commentators have suggested that Donald Trump would not have been elected president were it not for the influence of fake news. Profiteers produce fake news material and spread it widely for advertising profits. According to the Global Disinformation Index, European fake news sites earn around $75m of advertising, majorly placed by Google, a year. Many people also create fake news to drive lots of visitors to a website to make profits in online publishing. Paul Horner, a prolific, Facebook-focused fake-news writer, for instance, makes $10,000 a month from AdSense by creating and promoting fake news on his site.

Although fake news has existed long, its impact has now become more alarming due to its massive and quick spread through social media. This is possible because, according to Digital 2020, almost 4.5 billion people (60% of the world’s population) are already online, and more than 3.8 billion are social media users. What is more, social media is the main source of the latest news as 50 % of Internet users access the latest news via social media before ever hearing about it on a news station. Research has revealed that through social media fake news can spread 10 times faster than legitimate news stories.

Why are people susceptible to fake news? The reasons are numerous, like one’s difficulty to scrutinize information that floods him through social media; the strain to differentiate misinformation from real news because both often look similar; the difficulty to ignore misinformation that appeals to one’s emotion, and humans’ need for social affiliation can drive to accept information coming from familiar groups and suspect information coming from different groups. These factors make people vulnerable to fake news.The root of these reasons, however, is the absence or lack of critical thinking. Although we are bombarded with information, when we think critically, we will be able to examine which is fact and which is merely opinion. Although fake news is created very similar to real news, our critical thinking can help us differentiate them. Critical thinking also enables us to detach our emotions while considering fake news so that we can detect the true intention behind the fake news creation. Cepeda (2018) states that fake news evolves into an epidemic due to the calamitous lack of critical thinking.

Concerning his, therefore, the best way to fight fake news is through education, in which people are empowered to think critically. Fake news, as I have described in a previous article, could be countered by …

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