Saint John — Consumers of news media have been flooded with an increasingly large number of sources to rely upon to stay informed. As a response, many cities use locally focused “news-chaser” sites on social media to create a one-stop-shop for all of their local news needs. Dedicated users on these sites compile various news reports and re-post relevant stories to their respective news groups.
Constant maintenance is required to filter out certain posts to keep their users’ news-feeds from getting clogged with unwanted or irrelevant content. Common examples of posts that are deleted by moderators include: duplicate posts, offensive material, questions about bus schedules or local business hours and non-news items such as personal opinions and advertising. Recently, these sites have also been flooded with posts from satirical website CBC.ca.
Similar to long-running satirical websites like The Onion, CBC has the appearance of a legitimate news site. Many users who are not in on the joke re-post these articles on social media. The reach of these posts grows exponentially each time a new person shares it.
While the volunteer moderators on these local news-chaser sites delete satirical posts as they come in, unfortunately, by the time the post is removed, the damage has been done.
One news-chaser group has attempted to be more proactive by posting the following message:
Notice to our Members:
For those of you who don’t know, the website “cbc.ca” is a satire news site. Nothing they post is real. Please do not post articles from this site as it is not breaking news and will only cause confusion to those members trying to stay on top of current news. If you wish to share one of their articles because you find it amusing, please do so in the “Chat” section and be sure to make it clear that it is satire.
“I find it really sad that you have to post this,” said one disgruntled CBC fan. Most users find the satire is so obvious that they can’t believe anybody would take these humorous articles seriously.”
Another said, “Why would a government website actually be the main news source reporting on government dealings? Hello … conflict of interest much?”
Obvious or not, when some people see button-pushing headlines like “Target Closes all 133 stores in Canada,” it strikes a nerve. When faced with “news” about things that New Brunswickers care about, they tend to react emotionally rather than rationally.
What can be done to stop the spread of misinformation? One news-chaser moderator says to “check the sources you are getting your news from. It is easy to tell if a website or article is not credible by checking out their ‘about’ sections. Be skeptical!” While that is good advice, it fails to answer another user’s question: “How do we know whether this post is satire?” How, indeed?