Did you know that including a visual component online makes a news story look more convincing and trustworthy? Plain copy is fine, but add to that a compelling illustration and people will most certainly take more interest in it. That’s how the human brain works. Yes, we are hard-wired to put more trust into what we can see rather than just read or hear.
According to findings by the American Press Institute, having a visual component is one of the key factors people use to tell the real news from the fake. That’s why the top-tier media like The New York Times or The Washington Post have always been serious about shooting the best pictures possible to illustrate their news stories. That’s why photojournalism exists, and that’s why there are so many award-winning military photographers out there. To make people trust and react emotionally, you have to show, not just tell.
Unfortunately, it seems like someone on the dark side knows this fact about the human brain all too well and is taking advantage of it. Otherwise, how would you explain the recent trend of using memes to massively spread misleading information across social media, namely Facebook?
You’ve probably heard about fake news. It’s something of a buzzword these days. But do you know anything about fake news memes? Chances are high that you don’t, which puts you at risk for falling victim to a false new image yourself. That’s why you absolutely need to read this article to better protect yourself from falling for these fake news memes ever again.
Fake News Memes On Facebook: What Are They?
Gone are the times when memes were just funny images to post in your newsfeed or share with friends. Believe it or not, memes have become a popular method of disseminating false information. These days, memes are widely used as tools of political manipulation.
There are five underlying causes of this phenomenon:
- Most people are poor at identifying false images, especially, if they are professionally designed.
- Memes are designed to go viral, which makes them a perfect tool for massive (mis)information spreading. Unlike articles or sponsored posts, memes always seem to find their way to slip by.
- Memes are easy and quick to make. Especially, compared to articles and video news.
- Current fact-checking features and fake-news-identifying algorithms have difficulty processing images.
- Memes are jokes; they are not meant to be believed. This makes it hard to control or restrict them from a legal standpoint.
Given all that, it’s clear that memes are the biggest component of the fake news problem.
Despite their entertaining nature, memes make an effective tool for political manipulation. Especially, when targeted at people who lack critical thinking skills and tend to trust information without giving it a second thought. Doesn’t it sound like a dream for a political strategist?
Below is a list of visual hoaxes that significantly have contributed to misinformation on Facebook. This list will make you understand why it is crucial to combat sharing of misinformation (and why visual fake news is especially worth our attention):
1. This provocative meme, which appeals to religion and politics at the same time, is believed to be published by Russian trolls.
2. This one is a telling example of how easy it can be to manipulate using visuals. Take two contrasting situations, add a speculative caption, and here it is: a perfect viral image to manipulate people’s political views.
3. People with strong critical thinking skills might not give a meme like this a second thought, but those who are not sure about their political views can be easily influenced by it. Especially, if such a meme appears in their newsfeed for a prolonged period of time.
4. That’s the “beauty” of memes. One can say whatever he or she wants, no proof or arguments needed.
5. Jokes make the best memes. Political jokes put into meme form go viral. Viral political memes can go as far influencing election results.
6. Memes are not meant to be believed. Nonetheless, seeing a picture like this (especially, more than once) will most certainly build some associations in your brain.
7. This one does not even need words.
If you think that memes are jokes, you are only partially right. If put into the wrong hands, they can turn into a dangerous weapon and change the course of history in the most unpredictable ways. Remember to always look at things critically and to not let speculative jokes influence your opinions and views on the things that matter.
How often do you notice fake news memes in your feed? What is the most provocative one you’ve ever seen?