Market Watch: Wow! The Best Clickbait Rationale

“Like if you accept Jesus as your savior, ignore if you want to be with Satan” was one of the many infamous examples of popular Facebook clickbait. In the 2014, Facebook had removed such like-baiting posts - hence we don’t see them anymore in our news feed. One unavoidable aspect of posting on Facebook unavoidable; the flooding of junk content. Junk content is fabricated news spreading throughout Facebook news feeds, such as petitions to stop a politician or a bill, scientific breakthroughs by some unheard persons or organizations, shocking stories told by insiders, and the infamous fake celebrity deaths. 

Articles with shocking titles like “Scientists prove there is life after death” and “Target to discontinue sale of holy bible” are surely able to attract many clicks. With our innate curiosity, we continually wish to know something beyond our common knowledge or new groundbreaking discoveries. This low quality content is usually accompanied by shocking or disturbing images to attract readers. Unsurprisingly, these fake stories generate many clicks from curious minds to their website. At the same time, these articles contain a degree of topical diversity. They can be life hacks, science, economy, history, video games, politics, celebrities, or even international issues. Out there somewhere, resides a topic that you may be interested in. 

Within the actual contents of the article, some of the information can be true, though a majority tends to be false. When human mind sees an unproven statement grouped along with some true statements, we will assume that unproven statement to be true as well.  

Within those links, there are usually more ads waiting for the curious users. In the same vein as Youtubers, these online content creators of fake news sites profit with advertisements, either from Google AdSense or with other companies’ advertising contract. Low quality content websites usually heavily rely on google ads or even pop-up ads to cover up their lack of visitors, unlike popular content creating or major mainstream websites. With the high number of curious visitors from Facebook and other social media platforms, it is possible to generate a decent number of ad revenue for writing fake news articles. These content creators and webpage administrators truly know how to apply the psychology of internet users in relation to curiosity to make money. 

There are ways to identify fake news content; verifying news is not much more than checking its sources’ credibility. With Google and other advanced search engines, checking facts is easier than ever. Everyone can become a digital Sherlock Holmes when investigating a news story’s validity. 

For large catastrophe, death of famous person, scientific breakthrough news, or generally international news, mainstream media like CBS, CNN, and CSNBC will usually be the first ones reporting it - then smaller, local news agencies and miscellaneous publications will follow. Within hours, everyone will be talking about it on social media and in reality. There are cases of major mainstream media reporting a story incorrectly or “forgetting” to report news. Not all shocking news can receive equal amount of attention from the mainstream media. For example, a terrorist group is exterminating villages somewhere in West Africa and major media didn’t report it, though it should be a news within those West African countries and won’t take too much time to search the sources from there. In addition, if there are images being used, it would be even easier; simply right click and search the image and look for its sources. 

For scientific and archaeological discoveries, readers should simply look at whether the source is credible or not. Scientific experiment reports should always include an abstract to depict the essence of their experiment, methodology to getting the result, and data collected in the process. For examples, articles like “Using this item can causes cancer,” readers should simply check the for linked the experiment or observation conducted. This applies to archaeological discoveries too; archaeologists will need to present a well written report with their findings. A reliable academic report should always have reliable backed up sources and data.

There is also fabricated “shocking” content about insider information from the legal, financial, medical, or even from government sectors. A common unifier between everyone the desire to know what the government, banks, and large corporations are hiding from us.  Sometimes these stories even make the whistle blower anonymous to make it harder to identify its legitimacy. At this point, we only can rely on domestic mainstream media. If the whistle blower is from the US, then the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal can determine their validity. Would the anonymous whistle blowers tell their secret to mainstream media, post by themselves, or ask some website that’s full of spamming ads to post for them if they wanted to expose the truth?   

With the expanding use of social media, news and information spreads like wildfire. Amongst this wildfire, a number of social media platforms are hotbeds of fabricated stories. In fact, false content is incredibly popular throughout social media platforms, regardless of language. In recent years, China launched a campaign of removing “shocking news” and promised to punish whoever initiated the rumors in social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo. 

Besides fabricated rumors, violence and suicidal videos are on the rise throughout Facebook too. This content is usually posted by Facebook users themselves. On May 3, Facebook announced that it is planning to hire 3000 more staff members to remove inappropriate and violent content. Considering of there are already 1.86 billion active users monthly, it is still a large amount of cleansing work for the new staff. While we should continue to learn about the unexplored and remain open to new information, at the same time, we should add some skepticism to verify the news feed we are receiving. In a society like the one we are in, it is easy to be deceived.