Lies, damn lies. Misinformation. Disinformation. Rumours. Spin. Propaganda. Deceit. Hype. Fake news.
Lies through time
From the start, fake news has been extreme and sensationalist, designed to inflame passions and prejudices, sway positions of power and politics, and even incite hatred and violence. The Nazi propaganda machine is a dangerous example, and it is widely acknowledged propaganda led to the downfall of Antony and Cleopatra’s reign of the Roman Empire.
Read even more examples, including how HG Well’s War of The Worlds was believed to be true when it was first broadcast, of fake news through the years and if you want to delve deeper, this guide to the history of ’fake news’ and disinformation includes a fascinating timeline of ‘Information Disorder’ through the ages.
Why is fake news bad?
Some fake news may be an attempt at fun or satire, but a great deal is damaging, malicious, and even dangerous. With 45 percent of UK adults believing they encounter fake news online every single day, the risks of it creating confusion are frighteningly high.
What’s more, a 2019 study by Loughborough University’s Online Civic Culture Centre found 42.8 percent of news readers admit to sharing inaccurate or false news, saying “those who share news on social media are mainly motivated to inform others and express their feelings”.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a recent example of how fake news stories can go wild and plant seeds of mistrust, from claims that it spreads through petrol pumps to theories linking 5G masts to the virus.
Climate change is another area subject to fake news. While people are more engaged with the climate crisis than ever before, a survey of 1,700 adults living in the UK by YouGov and The Conversation found almost half the sample couldn’t correctly identify 50 percent of fake climate change news headlines, 24 percent said they hardly ever fact-check the information they read, and almost half are unaware when they encounter misinformation online.
These results show that despite widespread awareness of the problems caused by fake news, many don’t recognise their own role in this process; people need guidance on how to effectively spot misinformation, and how to find reliable information about climate change.
It is clear fake news fuels conspiracy theories and can result in bad outcomes ranging from bewilderment to real danger.
Test your own awareness of fake news and see if you can distinguish fact from fiction with this quiz.
Greenwashing strays into fake news territory
Just as there are false or misleading news stories there are sustainability claims made by some organisations that aren’t as substantial as they’re reported. As this editorial states, there’s no shortage of vague and misleading green marketing claims and a few that are outright misleading.
What’s more, European regulatory bodies are now turning focus towards tackling deceiving environmental claims and From January 2022, businesses’ sustainability claims must comply with the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) ‘Green Claims Code’. Meanwhile, the European Commission’s ‘Green Claims Initiative’ is setting up a policy framework which won’t tolerate inaccurate or overblown environmental claims.
The best way to avoid falling into the greenwashing trap is to let the facts speak for themselves. Be transparent, especially when it comes to the environmental benefits of your products or services, and take accountable, honest actions, track your progress, and produce verifiable reports. Above all, choose honesty over perfection and set an example others can follow.
Authenticity is everything
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Fake news can even affect your health and wellbeing
Living in a world of fake news can make us worried and anxious, having a negative impact on our mental wellbeing. It’s common to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and feel unsettled as you don’t know what to believe.
Research suggests, under certain circumstances, misinformation can affect an individual’s physical wellbeing, leading to both mental and physical health implications, including poor mental health and cardiovascular disease.
If you’re anxious about a story or claim, do ensure you check it with a reliable source. This rolling news update busting fake news is worth checking out. Better yet, take a break. Switch off your phone or TV and do something you enjoy and relax. See our advice on taking care of yourself and read how managing expectations can impact your wellbeing, and your personal and professional relationships.
Truth and accuracy are key to maintaining a balanced view on world events, managing your professional work, and is certainly critical to our health and wellbeing. Safeguard your sanity, and reputation, and learn how to spot fake news with our tools and tips.