March 5, 2017

Avoiding Fake News, Extreme Bias, and Click-Bait

Fake News (32332513102)

Shortly after I tweeted a link to a post from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the theocratic leanings of some of the key players in the Trump administration, someone tweeted me claiming "They are all part of the Christian Dominionist movement...look it up on AddictingInfo." I'm familiar with Christian Dominionism, so I did not find the claim that any of these people might be associated with it to be terribly surprising or interesting. What I did find surprising was that someone would actually recommend Addicting Info as a source for...well...anything.

I replied, "I generally try to steer clear of the biased click-bait sites like that." This was a true statement on my part. I cannot claim that I never make the mistake of visiting such sites (usually by clicking links I do not realize will take me there), but I do try to avoid them. The response I received was informative: "Let Me guess... you're a Conservative." Nope. Lifelong liberal. Not a conservative. Never been a conservative. Interesting tactic, though.

I don't avoid extremely biased click-bait oriented sites because I disagree with their politics. I avoid them because I prefer my news to be fact-based, and I have little interest in the over-the-top appeals to emotion or desperate efforts to make facts fit into various narratives that have become so common. And that means that I try to avoid sites like this on both the left and the right unless I am actually interested in examining one of their narratives and the manner in which they push it.

When I hear the term "fake news," I think mostly about made up stories (e.g., a post describing an event that never happened as if it happened, putting words in someone's mouth to claim that he or she said something that was never said"). This sort of thing may be related to bias and click-bait, but it is not synonymous with those things. Technically, a site could write extremely biased and/or click-bait content that was factually accurate. I say all of this because I have little interest in claiming that sites like Addicting Info are necessarily "fake news" sites. Their extreme bias is enough of a reason for me to be wary about supporting them.

There are many lists of "fake news" sites, as well as those that are extremely biased and/or click-bait oriented. From what I could gather during a recent Google search, Addicting Info seems to appear on nearly all of them. Of course, they are not the only one. With that in mind, here are just a few of the more popular sites I try to avoid promoting due to excessive bias, click-bait, and frequent misinformation:
  • Addicting Info
  • Salon
  • Occupy Democrats
  • PoliticusUSA
  • Huffington Post
  • Breitbart
  • Infowars
  • WorldNetDaily
  • Alternet
  • Newsmax
I still see quite a bit of content from these sites being shared on Twitter and Facebook, and I am no longer surprised when I see it. After all, many people prefer "news" that confirms their preconceived ideas or fits their preferred narratives. This is an important part of what people mean when they refer to how we tend to encase ourselves in ideological bubbles. There's nothing I can do about what others share, but I try to avoid sharing, retweeting, or liking content that comes from these sites and others like them.

Here are some useful resources for fact checking.