To exacerbate the situation, our modern age has endless media sources that propagate information, opinions, and ideas from all perspectives- regardless of accuracy or intent.
When I was growing up, the idea of "fake news" was limited to media like The Weekly World News, with stories about Bat Boy and the President meeting with aliens.
Now, there are so many people and outlets creating content that it is increasingly difficult for the average person to distinguish fact from fiction. There are people taking advantage of this muddled media environment to raise thousands of dollars in ad revenue by making up fake news stories. They do this by taking advantage of people's willingness to share items on social media that reflect their worldview, regardless of the source.
Unfortunately, the population is severely lacking in the one skill that would help cut through the bullshit- the ability to think critically. People have not been taught how to be skeptical, research, and be objective. The result is that people either believe nothing at all, or they only trust what already reinforces their existing belief system.
It's so bad, that websites are giving advice on how to spot "fake news". These tips may seem like common sense to those with the ability to critically analyze information, but it is evidently something that much of the public needs to learn.
Here are the points from the article above:
• Determine whether the article is from a legitimate website
(although some people would argue the "legitimacy" of certain websites)
• Check the ‘contact us’ page
• Examine the byline of the reporter and see whether it makes sense
• Read the article closely
• Scrutinize the sources
• Look at the ads
• Use search engines to double-check
In this era of "click & share" this checklist is more than the typical person is willing to do. However, it's a good guide for the person who wants to make sure a source isn't completely full of shit.