Hunt for clickbait
Recently, clickbait has become an inseparable part of well-designed strategies for generating profits, but also of the way in which we get information every day. I am sure that all of us have many times read a sensationalist headline that promised to give us new insights with shocking news. However, when we started reading, we realized that the headline announced content that was not in the text. This is precise what clickbait is, one of the most widespread media manipulations. We find it in online media, on social networks, websites, YouTube... It is designed to keep readers engaged long enough to open a text and read it to the end, hoping that the information promised in the headline will indeed appear in the text.
We, UNICEF's Young Reporters, have partnered together and decided to devote some of our time to exposing and analysing fake news and clickbait.
These are some examples of clickbait that we noticed in online media.
“In this country you get arrested for talking about coronavirus: If you put on a mask or mention COVID-19 you may end up in prison”
This is the title of an article that was published a week ago on the portal volimpodgoricu.me. Namely, the title says that one will be arrested in a particular country if one speaks in public about coronavirus or if one wears a mask. That country is Turkmenistan, and it is claimed that the authorities have banned discussion on the coronavirus and that such act could put one behind bars.
We did not analyse whether this information is true, but we did note that the text does not mention any prohibition against wearing masks, although the headline announces this. Besides this, only once we open the text do we realize which country has introduced these bans. That is why we agreed that this article is clickbait.
➢ “Dusan (81) has defeated corona: I was not on a respirator, but this therapy cured me
This is another clickbait that was also posted on the site volimpodgoricu.me. The headline tells us that a man of 81 years defeated coronavirus without a respirator, but was cured by some other therapy. The title makes us curious as we want to find out whether there is actually another therapy that can cure even the most vulnerable (the oldest) of this virus. So, Dusan Petrovic, 81, from Valjevo, was infected with the coronavirus, but recovered successfully. After 16 days of hospital treatment, he has finally recovered and is ready to return home. He reports that he was transferred to the Clinic for Infectious Diseases in Belgrade on 14 March, and on 19 March he was transferred to Dragisa Misovic Hospital. It was stated that he had no chronic diseases and that the treatment that cured him was actually oxygen.
➢ Arteta described the coronavirus symptoms down to the smallest detail! Fever, headache... but one strange feeling alarmed him
The third case is the case of Mikel Arteta, the head coach of Arsenal, who described in detail the symptoms of coronavirus. What Blic emphasized in the headline as “unusual” is that he actually felt discomfort and a strange feeling in his chest. This is emphasized in the headline and may lead the readers to open the text. However, pain in one’s chest is not an unusual feeling in the case of coronavirus, but the mention in the headline is aimed at attracting the attention of the readers. This is again an example of clickbait.
➢ “Killed five because of noise during isolation!”
This is about a man who allegedly killed five people because they were talking loudly beneath his window. When we read the text, we find out that it is actually true. He warned them a couple of times, and when they continued talking loudly, he took his hunting rifle and started firing at them, once the disagreement started. He killed four men and one woman on the spot. He was arrested and his firearm was confiscated.
You are surely wondering why this would actually be clickbait when the text matches the title? Here's the reason: there is no information in the headline about where exactly this happened and for the average reader this headline creates the feeling that this actually happened in our region. It is, in fact, about a man from the Russian village of Yelatma, some 200 km southeast of Moscow!
➢ “Czech Republic has put a stop to the spread of coronavirus and is getting back to normal life!”
The portal in4s.net states that the Czech Republic has managed to put a stop to the spread of coronavirus and that people can return to their normal lives. However, it is actually speaking about a reduction in the basic reproduction number (that is, the number indicating how many people have been infected by one patient). It now stands at about one, while at the beginning of mass testing and self-isolation it was 2.64.
“The mortality rate in the Czech Republic is very low, but people will still die”, said the Head of the Institute for Health Information and Statistics, Ladislav Dusek. Thus, the spread of coronavirus has slowed down, but is still present. There is still great danger and we should not rely on this progress.
Research shows that readers often read only the headline and not the entire text. It is this kind of action that leads to the spread of misinformation and fake news! This is why media literacy is important. Critically evaluating online content is crucial in preventing these types of fraud.
So, let's choose what we read and who we trust! Let’s use valid sources of information and check all information before sharing it with others.
In an effort to contribute to preventing the dissemination of coronavirus misinformation and to promoting credible sources of information, UNICEF's young reporters have decided to check the accuracy of information published on social media and in the media that has attracted public attention. In verifying the accuracy of information, they have followed the example of the Public Disclosure Platform and partly used its publicly available methodology.