Misinformation grows as a threat to society


In our country and our world, many issues must be addressed; but one stands out as the cause of so many others. Misinformation both creates problems and is one in itself – and is therefore something that must urgently be stopped. In recent years, with the growing popularity of social media, misinformation has grown to become extremely common. More fake news is being created and spread nowadays than ever before – and thus, more and more incidents related to it continue to arise. In recent years, a countless number of terrible incidents have occured due to people simply being misinformed. It is clear that misinformation in the United States must be addressed and stopped, for it often leads to people acting inadvisably and is nowadays more common than ever. 

Firstly, misinformation often leads to other problems and unwanted incidents. People who are misinformed about an issue are often encouraged to take action against it, which leads to thousands of people fighting for an imaginary cause. This has been seen several times in the past few years alone, especially throughout the Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This is elaborated upon in the article Controlling the Spread of Misinformation by the American Psychological Association:  “An analysis of misinformation from five samples across the United States, Europe, and Mexico showed that substantial portions of each population—anywhere from 15% to 37%—believed misinformation about COVID-19 in April and May 2020, representing what the authors call a ‘major threat to public health.’ People who were more susceptible to misinformation were less likely to report complying with public health recommendations and less likely to say they’d get vaccinated”(Abrams). This illustrates how misinformation leads to people making bad decisions and new problems arising – throughout the pandemic, people who have been misinformed about the virus have been less likely to comply with the regulations put in place to keep people safe from it. Misinformation has led to a major threat to public health, and events similar to this have occurred hundreds of times before. It is clear that to end these occurrences, misinformation must be stopped.

Next, it is important to note that misinformation is growing more common every day. With the growing popularity of social media, misinformation is becoming easier to spread than ever, and thus it is being spread much more. Not only this, but people take more interest in news spreading misinformation than real news. This is explained and mathematically proven by the National Academy of Sciences in the article The Spreading of Misinformation Online: “Science news is usually assimilated . . . quickly, and a longer lifetime does not correspond to a higher level of interest. Conversely, conspiracy rumors are assimilated more slowly and show a positive relation between lifetime and size”(PNAS.org). This shows how real news is often quickly forgotten, while misinformation sticks around and is rapidly spread. With fake news being almost as common as real, this calculation suggests that most information people pay attention to is false. Misinformation must be addressed, for it has grown far too common in the world today.

Some people may say that most humans are easily capable of distinguishing real news from false. However, this is far from the truth. Huge numbers of people have been seen to fall for flagrant lies in the news or on social media. For example, according to the American Psychological Association, “ . . . in June [of 2021], a quarter [of U.S. adults] believed the [COVID-19] outbreak was intentionally planned by people in power”(Abrams). With so many people believing lies like this, they cannot be expected to catch much more subtle ones. It is clear that something must be done about misinformation. Social media companies should heavily censor their platforms from fake news, and people should be better educated on how to distinguish true news from fiction. Sources of news should clearly provide resources on how to determine the trustworthiness of a statement before they are used. With the end of the rampant misinformation in the world today, the world will surely come out a much better and wiser place.