It almost seems like some sort of intense social experiment but online media is often less accurate than FOX News. While people should always use common sense when reading things online, some of the crap being distributed can cause real harm because some of us actually fall for the lies!
The More You Click
The main thing online media cares about is how many times you click on their story. That's how they make money. In order to accomplish this an editor will likely choose to cover a story that has far more impact versus ones that don't, like the suffering of a war torn 3rd world country that simply doesn't make the news often enough.
Even the New York Times messes up now and then. On Nov. 22nd, 2014, they were forced to print a clarification after they printed a fake story about Kanye West based on information from "The Daily Currant", an online site that often offers murky stories with little to no truth behind them.
The problem with online media is that writers rarely revisit old stories to update any potentially misleading info that at the time seemed accurate. So for example you might still find something out there with damning evidence that convinces you that men evolved from apes even though that was scientifically proven not to be the case (although some would suggest that we are closely related).
Going With Your Gut
Our fears and prejudices (YES! We all have them in some form or another) allows us to accept bogus news from less reliable sites simply because they appeal to our beliefs. This blinds us when it comes to listening to the truth from reliable news sources like CNN or BBC News because we're being manipulated by our own unwavering point of view.
"Alien Life On Philae Comet Is Almost Certain According To Scientists!" On July 6, 2015 headlines like this one came with quotes from scientists like Max Wallis and Chandra Wickramasinghe, who in reality didn't have access to any actual recent data from the comet. This is a perfect example of how eye-catching headlines can often result in misleading stories.
Profoundly Unhappy Parents
According to a story The Onion posted, "Every Style of Parenting Results In Miserable Adults". Naturally they associated their story with alleged research by the California Parenting Institute of Santa Rosa. When the institute received angry emails and phone calls from parents and their grown-up kids, the truth came out that it was nothing more than an unfounded made-up story for a parody site.
Kim Jong Un Is The Sexiest Man In The World
Some stories are based on fact. But they get so twisted by bloggers and freelancers to keep them from looking copied that they often end up turning reality into pure unadulterated lies. Take this headline for example. People's Daily Online accepted a story from The Onion that claimed that the North Korean leader was named "Sexiest Man Alive for 2012". Even Un was surprised.
Through Photoshop, online media has often managed to fool people into believing the unbelievable like a scuba diver swimming through the Time Square Subway station after being flooded by Hurricane Sandy. In most cases, it's harmless. But altered photos can cause negative reactions like when one photo showed the Salvation Army refusing to serve gay people. It was obviously a lie.
Badly Sourced Stories
It doesn't matter if it says that Tom Cruise was abducted by aliens just as long as there's some kind of hyperlink from a reputable source confirming the story. People will believe anything. Take the Daily Mail site from the UK. It's notorious for misleading info but a lot of other countries, often the U.S., assume that some of their shady-at-best stories have a lot truth to them and use Daily Mail as a source.