Fake news articles shared online by your friends and relatives could have serious effects in an offline world. Recently, a North Carolina man opened fire in a popular Washington, DC pizza restaurant, saying he was personally investigating a fake news story he believed to be true. The fabricated article claimed there was a child sex ring operating inside Comet Ping Pong, managed by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign chair John Podesta.

Social media experts note that fake news could have influenced this year’s presidential election. The top 20 fake news stories on Facebook received significantly more traction than the top 20 news articles by established news organizations. According to a BuzzFeed analysis, 75 percent of U.S. adults are fooled by these fake news headlines and according to Pew Research, 20 percent of social media users report changing their political stance due to material on social media. With 62 percent of Americans using social media as a news source, there is a potential for a significant number of voters basing their political decisions on false headlines. BuzzFeed Canada Editor Craig Silverman has been studying the fake news phenomenon for over decade. He sits down with Soledad O’Brien to explain the business models that promote misinformation and the difficulties of combating fake news.

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*THIS IS A ROUGH TRANSCRIPT. THERE MAY BE ERRORS. O’Brien: Craig Silverman is the editor of BuzzFeed Canada saw this coming, he has been studying the veracity of online news for the past decade. He is in Toronto today. Nice to talk to you, what tipped you off ten years ago that this would become a thing, fake news? Silverman: One of the things I was paying to attention ten years ago was real news, the mainstream media, the lack of discussion around accuracy and fact checking. That was back in 2004 I started writing about it and researching it and looking at the level of accuracy of main stream media. As social media and I started to see rumors and misinformation getting tremendous velocity and huge distribution, I started to shift around 2010 to look at that element and looking at the role of social media and a few years ago did a project specifically about misinformation online O’Brien: so 62 percent, the figure that I just gave out, who get some of their news in some way from social media. it's a cultural shift, so how can you possibly clamp down on fake news when so many people are accessing social media, which really the way it is getting around Silverman: This is a fundamental change in how people are getting information and consuming information. We don't want people to turn off and censor everything. And what social media has done is democratize media. Anyone can publish, tweet something, post on Facebook, start a blog, and on and on and on. // Fundamentally different universe. There is a lack of control with that and that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is free speech but it introduces new consequences, and spread of rumors and misinformation is one of those and we saw in particular around the election huge amounts of false stories that were getting a lot of traction on Facebook O’Brien: The top 20 fake stores were getting far more engagement than the top 20 real news stories from some of the biggest names in news. How do you manage something like that when driven by algorithms? Silverman: The algorithm on Facebook learns what you do. Learn what you like and their goal is to feed you more of that because it gets you to spend more time on Facebook. The algorithms ends up sending you more of the stuff that confirms more of what you believe and think. O’Brien: Well you can’t expect the user end, like my Aunt Silvia, to say "oh I'm not going to forward this story" because I deem it to be fake. We know most people can't tell fake from real Silverman: Social media is still new. When you open up Facebook and you look at the newsfeed and when you look at the links people are sharing they all look the same. You don't see logos, you have to go below the image and headline to see where it came from and most people don't do that. It is a big challenge. O’Brien: its not that people like a more factual story than one that actually confirms the conspiracy theory that they believe. Plus you have the president elect elevating fake news - that's problematic and different Silverman: That's unprecedented. The fact that Trump will tweet things that are untrue. There was a fake news story that a protester had been paid $3500 to protest trump. That's from a completely fake website by a guy who just creates hoaxes all day long to make money. That was tweeted out by two of his campaign managers, one of his sons. When you have people at that level of influence pushing that misinformation out there, whether knowingly and unknowingly, that gives it an added level of credibility that allows people to sit back and say well hold on, what is going on. That will give it that much more of an element of believability O’Brien: what do you think are the solutions? Silverman: The first step is purely fake sites, not things that are partisan and slanted, but purely fake sites should be labeled or find some way to clearly communicate that to people on Facebook. The other piece you mentioned is education - I think there is a role for but recognize that this is a massive undertaking and we're talking about having to introduce some form of media literacy broadly in high school and universities and maybe earlier and that's tough and challenging thing to have happen. O’Brien: Craig thank so you so much for updating us appreciate it Silverman: thank you
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