It's quicker than ever to create a professional-looking website. For purveyors of fake news, that makes crafting—and sharing—believable stories an easy taskby Robin Wilde / May 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
As the web has developed, the art of web design has grown with it. At the same time, the ubiquity of social media has fundamentally altered how we consume our news.
The evidence suggests that despite all the controversies of the last few years, we are becoming more, not less trusting of our news feeds (up from 15 per cent to 22 per cent from 2011 to 2018).
This isn’t a coincidence: the appearance of online news, with its large “hero” images, HTML5 charts and graphics, suggests authority. As news websites have become more polished, they have made the amateurish-looking blog mostly a thing of the past.
We have reached a point where to distinguish visually between sources of news online, particularly when browsing in a hurry, can be difficult. Many of the shorthand pieces of visual language which help us distinguish print publications—font choices, paper size, image choice and colour schemes—are not present or less prominent online. While there are still obvious differences between the websites of, say, the Sun and the Financial Times, within the tabloids and broadsheets, there is often little to distinguish them in visual identity.
This level of similarity isn’t problematic while users are dealing with established titles—few UK readers won’t have heard of the Sun—but in a changing landscape of new media outlets, a strong visual presence can provide an initial veneer of credibility for those with less than noble aims.
This problem reaches its nadir on social media, where the presentation of links is virtually undistinguished. While a reader might choose not to click on a link to the Guardian or the Telegraph, depending on their tastes, they may not know instinctively that, for example, the Boston Tribune or the Denver Guardian are fake news sites.
— Rebecca Risch (@rebeccarisch) November 7, 2016
All links come with an embedded image and an SEO-friendly headline—often highly emotive and designed to garner reactions and shares—in a way which standardises the look of the news feed and gives equal weight to every post, no matter the source.
The Edelman Trust Barometer Survey data for the UK in 2018 showed 64 per cent of people are not confident they can distinguish legitimate reporting from rumours or lies.
In the same survey, as many as 42 per cent of people said they only skim the headlines on social media, leaving the content—where truth can most…