The credibility of news on the Internet is a topic that often becomes the cause of controversy and even lawsuits against unscrupulous media resources due to the high frequency of fake news published online. Massive access to the global web and relative freedom to post digital content are factors that induce news agencies and other resources to publish inaccurate information. In addition, personal bias and individual interests are the drivers of the problem. Much information on the Internet is unreliable, and filtering news according to the trustworthiness criterion is a mandatory factor in obtaining trustworthy and objective information.
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Background of the Subject
Receiving news from the Internet today is one of the most accessible and widespread ways. This covers a variety of topics and touches on both social issues, for instance, medical news, as well as political and other areas. For example, according to Jang and Baek (2019), based on the survey conducted in South Korea, 94.7% of respondents used media to learn about public health issues (p. 993). However, such a high proportion of interested citizens does not reflect the reliability of information published on the Internet. In the study by Manalu et al. (2018), respondents noted that 9.8% of the fake data they received from the Internet was related to socio-political news (p. 2). This suggests that the high interest in online publications does not correlate with the reliability of news and, conversely, can be a means of manipulating opinions. In conditions of massive access to the global network and ease of message delivery, unscrupulous channels can act out of vested interests and act on the side of those who pay them. Thus, despite the absolute dominance of online news over traditional media resources, trustworthiness is not an inherent trait in digital publishing.
One of the main reasons that information on the Internet is unreliable is the tendency of news agencies to create excitement by drawing public attention and generating interest around their publications. Rass (2021) gives an example of how online resources work in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic and notes that controlling people’s opinions, including their fears and hopes, is a tool to increase interest in a media resource from a marketing perspective. In an effort to influence emotions, such news outlets may utilize unverified data or under-talk important information, thereby attracting more readers due to widespread resonance. This applies not only to small portals but also to large media projects with an extensive target audience. The more provocative the news is, the more likely it is to attract new readers. Therefore, the interest of online resources in their promotion can be one of the significant factors explaining the high frequency of publications of fake or unverified news on the Internet.
Another factor that stimulates the publication of fake data on the Internet is the inability to verify their objectivity. As Nygren and Guath (2019) argue, “people of all ages and education, also elite students and professors, may struggle to understand trustworthiness when facing online news” (p. 24). In addition to striving to create mass hype and attract the attention of as many readers as possible, some resources publish news based on subjective assessments and perceptions. Many readers, being inclined to believe information read in public sources, perceive this data as truthful, although such news often lacks facts to present particular events from different angles. By acting in response to clients’ orders, online portals can present individual pieces of news in a one-sided and biased manner. This approach cannot be called objective and suggests that the trustworthiness of information on the Internet is in question.
Finally, another reason why online news is often untrustworthy is creating the image of democratization inherent in digital media versus traditional resources. By trusting information published on the Internet, users often express their protest sentiments, which, according to Gainous et al. (2018), is a consequence of the relative freedom of expression. Internet resources take advantage of this and publish content that readers want to see but not objective data. This is not the case for all news agencies, but many follow this approach by increasing their audience and striving to win the status of independent media. As a result, information is presented in distorted forms and often does not correspond to reality. However, the nature of the news feed and wording corresponds to readers’ preferences, which creates a false belief in the reliability of published data.
News on the Internet is often untrustworthy for several reasons. The desire to create hype, the inability or unwillingness to verify the published information, and attempts to gain credibility through bold and reader-oriented information are the main factors explaining the unreliability of such content. As a potential solution to this problem, involving independent oversight boards could help filter online news and bring unscrupulous portals to justice. Additional research aimed at identifying reasons for readers to trust unverified data can help determine relevant trends and address these gaps through effective behavior change strategies.
Gainous, J., Abbott, J. P., & Wagner, K. M. (2018). Traditional versus internet media in a restricted information environment: How trust in the medium matters. Political Behavior, 41(2), 401-422. Web.
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Jang, K., & Baek, Y. M. (2019). When information from public health officials is untrustworthy: The use of online news, interpersonal networks, and social media during the MERS outbreak in South Korea. Health Communication, 34(9), 991-998. Web.
Manalu, R., Pradekso, T., & Setyabudi, D. (2018). Understanding the tendency of media users to consume fake news. Jurnal Ilmu Komunikasi, 15(1), 1-16.
Nygren, T., & Guath, M. (2019). Swedish teenagers’ difficulties and abilities to determine digital news credibility. Nordicom Review, 40(1), 23-42. Web.
Rass, S. (2021). Judging the quality of (fake) news on the internet. Mind & Society, 20(1), 129-133. Web.