Much – if not most – of the “news” that we debunk on this website comes from fake news websites that we dub “fauxtire”.
The reason that we refer to these sites as fauxtire is a reference to their often thinly disguised attempt to justify themselves as legitimate entertainment or satire.
Unlike true satire however, these fake news “fauxtire” articles appear to be motivated not to entertain, but to trick certain readers into believing the articles to be legitimate news, thus inducing incredulous shares on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. This in turn attracts traffic to the website which is monetized via sponsored pay-per-click advertisements.
True satire – or one could say good satire – is aimed to have an apparent humour factor that is obvious to the reader, meaning it is much less likely to be misinterpreted as real news.
With fauxtire, this humour is lacking – and whilst one can argue that humour is subjective, this lack of humour is demonstrated simply by the large amount of readers who routinely mistake the articles as genuine. A phenomenon that does not occur to the same degree on genuine satire websites like The Onion, or The Daily Mash.
Often the theme of the articles published on fauxtire sites are picked to include subjects that often attract high “shareability” on social media as well as trending topics that are already prevalent on social media.
Some of the more popular fake news “fauxtire” websites have received wide criticism for their exploitation of controversial events. For example popular fake news site National Report published several viral articles about the Ebola outbreak which were considered not only insensitive, but also unnecessarily alarmist given that many inevitably believed their stories to be accurate. Such articles included the assertion that an Ebola outbreak occurred in Texas, as well as the claim that several US kindergarteners contracted the virus.
Additionally such sites have also been criticised for helping re-occurring myths associated with racial politics spread, such as the on-going rumours that Muslims are campaigning for pro-Christian holidays to be banned. Other articles run the risk of helping spread racial ignorance, such as a National Report article claiming President Obama is increasing sales tax to help finance paying Muslims “retributions”.
Of course just like most online rumours, the original fake articles garner many more shares than the articles that debunk them, meaning their ability to go viral across social media will always be more effective than sites like ours that “out” their stories as false.
Whilst we champion genuine entertainment & true satire just as much as anyone else, sites that publish fake news are simply exploiting a business model that capitalises on the gullibility of others as well as the apparent online trend of not verifying information before you pass it on to others.
This results in the propagation of misinformation online that we fight hard to tackle. It also potentially results in causing unneeded panic and concern, mis-targeted anger and any number indirect consequences that can happen as the result of spreading lies across the Internet.
Always verify the information you share online. We as a collective of Internet users should also shoulder a portion of the responsibility of what we share on our own social media channels. After all, without the gullible, these fake news websites would not enjoy the success that they often receive.
Check out our article on how to spot fake news websites here.