(This page may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)
Fake News – Social media is an almost unavoidable part of our society now — but can we trust it as a news source?
Individuals are more likely to encounter false and misleading information every day thanks to social media.
Social media platforms allow almost anyone to publish their thoughts or share stories with the world.
The trouble is, most people don’t check the source of the material that they view online before they share it,
which can lead to fake news spreading quickly or even “going viral.”
Because social media is a public platform, anyone including news outlets can post anything without being accountable for fact-checking.
That’s why it’s important for you as a user to be able to identify misinformation vs. disinformation in your newsfeed.
In this article, we’re going to explain how to identify “fake news,” and how you can keep yourself informed and protected from these tactics.
There are two kinds of fake news:
Stories that are false
These are entirely invented stories designed to make people believe something false.
Stories that are partly true.
For example, a journalist quotes only part of what a politician says, giving a false impression of their meaning.
Again, this can be deliberate, to convince readers of a certain viewpoint, or it can be the result of an innocent mistake.
Either way, it quickly attracts an audience and can become entrenched as an “urban myth.”
Six Ways to Spot Fake News
- Develop a Critical Mindset
One of the main reasons fake news is such a big issue is that it is often believable, so it’s easy to get caught out. Much fake news is also written to create “shock value,” that is, a strong instinctive reaction such as fear or anger.
This means it’s essential that you keep your emotional response to such stories in check. Instead, approach what you see and hear rationally and critically .
Ask yourself, “Why has this story been written?
Is it to persuade me of a certain viewpoint?
Is it selling me a product?
Or is it trying to get me to click through to another website?
Am I being triggered?”
- Check the Source
If you come across a story from a source that you’ve never heard of before, do some digging!
Check the web address for the page you’re reading.
Whether or not the author or publisher is familiar, stop to consider their reputation and professional experience.
Are they known for their expertise on the matter?
Or do they tend to exaggerate?
Remember, even if you got the story from your best friend, this gives it no extra authority – they likely didn’t follow these steps themselves before forwarding!
- See Who Else Is Reporting the Story
Has anyone else picked up on the story?
What do other sources say about it?
Avoid leaping to the conclusion that all main stream media (MSM) output is fake. This can be as unwise as following every rumor or conspiracy theory.
- Examine the Evidence
A credible news story will include plenty of facts – quotes from experts, survey data and official statistics, for example. Or detailed, consistent and corroborated eye-witness accounts from people on the scene. If these are missing, question it!
Does the evidence prove that something happened?
Or, have the facts been selected or “twisted” to back up a viewpoint?
- Don’t Take Images at Face Value
Modern editing software has made it easy for people to create fake images that look real. In fact, research shows that only half of us can tell when images are fake. However, there are some warning signs you can look out for. Strange shadows on the image, for example, or jagged edges around a figure.
Images can also be 100 percent accurate but used in the wrong context.
For example, photos from 10 years ago could be linked with a recent alleged event.
You can use tools such as Google Reverse Image Search to check where an image originated and whether it has been altered.
- Check That it “Sounds Right”
Finally, use your common sense! Bear in mind that fake news is designed to “feed” your biases, hopes or fears.