Fake news has the potential of swaying ideologies and beliefs. The line between facts and opinions can be blurred, while statements taken out of their contexts to serve political purposes. Such manipulation of text or data is worrisome particularly when some are willful in skewing media news and reports. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey that showed only 26% of Americans can distinguish between facts and opinions in news. Therefore, it becomes crucial to have tools for tracking how "alternative facts" spread, and for identifying fake stories to block them altogether. Facebook, Google and big media companies are making baby-steps efforts to stop the spread of fake stories.
With only a quarter of our population savvy in discerning biased or fake news, the responsibilities of educating the public also lie in “the politically aware, digitally savvy and those more trusting of the news.”
36% of Americans with high levels of political awareness (those who are knowledgeable about politics and regularly get political news) correctly identified … factual news statements, compared with about half as many (17%) of those with low political awareness. Similarly, 44% of the very digitally savvy (those who are highly confident in using digital devices and regularly use the internet) identified … statements correctly versus 21% of those who are not as technologically savvy. And though political awareness and digital savviness are related to education in predictable ways, these relationships persist even when accounting for an individual’s education level.
Partisan affiliations also influence how Americans differentiate between factual and opinion statements. Both Republicans and Democrats show a propensity to favor statements that appeal to their own political interests. In other words, they label both factual and opinion statements as factual to rationalize, justify, or solidify their own political side.
Knowing the difference between facts and opinions is then, the first step to raise awareness about the fact/opinion dynamics:
A fact is a statement that can be proven true or false. An opinion is an expression of a
person’s feelings that cannot be proven. Opinions can be based on facts or emotions and
sometimes they are meant to deliberately mislead others. Therefore, it is important to be
aware of the author’s purpose and choice of language. Sometimes, the author lets the
facts speak for themselves.
Emotional, logical or ethical persuasion is neither right nor wrong, but the way in which it is used can be positive or negative. The more savvy and educated people need to teach and preach the practice of making reasonable judgement about the material in the media, and of drawing conclusions about the credibility of the texts, news, and reports. Facts or opinions will show -- if one judges objectively, and inspects both sides of an argument with an open mind.