The Sg govt has warned us about online threats, using the acronym D.R.U.M.S (Distortions, Rumours, Untruths, Misinformation, Smears) because these can cause confusion and division.
This can be seen as a matter of Singapore’s defence :
Elsewhere in the world, the strategic use of D.R.U.M.S has been brought into light : imposters posing as anti-Semitic internet trolls and cyberbullies tarnish the efforts of other critics of the Israeli government because despite these critics’ logical or tenable arguments, they are made to appear to be as vile as the imposters.
See article here : http://www.commondreams.org/hambaconeggs
** Those keen on revising modern international media can google or wiki the term “hasbara” (the case above is one example of a ‘hasbara’ initiative)
Other than the government, other groups also try to point out the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction.
Online newspapers like the Washington Post actual carry a section “What’s fake on the internet this week” to supposedly help the average reader sort things out. Other websites also try to help readers distinguish urban legend from real events.
Another human rights website, Revolution News (RN), which explicitly denounces ISIS, makes it a point to highlight that even the militant group is prey to some fake news (RN investigates and features on its website photos taken elsewhere that have are untruthfully captioned to play up ISIS’ abuse of children & Christians, and stoke anger in the West – perhaps to justify further participation by the West in the Middle Eastern conflict)
The bottom line is that a reader should know how to do both of the following :
(1) Assess the credibility & soundness of content (not all alternative news can be just thrown aside and labelled “conspiracy” just the same way that not all government news can be labelled “propaganda and spin” )
(2) Think, and not jump to illogical conclusions (because even after he has assessed the content to be credible and sound, he could still end up asserting something indefensible or, worse, harmful.)