A quick guide to spotting fake news….

A lie can travel halfway across the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. – Mark Twain.

Image ref: Medium

Fake news is nothing new, the proliferation of social media just made it easier to spread. You see, there’s no good side to this because these stories can reach more people faster via social media than what good old-fashioned viral emails could accomplish in years past.

Whether it is called fake news or nice-sounding phrases like bogus stories, alternative truth, White-lie, half-truth, fairy-tale, it can harm anyone.

There is a range of fake news: from crazy stories which people easily recognise to more subtle types of misinformation. The latter are the ones everyone should be wary of. Read these tips on how to spot fake news, and don’t get fooled again!

Read beyond the headline:

Image ref: David Buckingham

This is the first stage people get fooled. Some publishers and writers in a bid to drive traffic to their site, craft a provocative headline to draw your attention. When you see this, read a little further before you decide to pass along the shocking information because the headline never tells the whole story.

Check the source/author:

Image ref: Freedom Forum Institute

Pay attention to this especially if it is online. Look at the website where the story comes from. Is it authentic? Is the text properly written? Are there a variety of other stories or is it just one story? Fake news websites often use addresses that sound like real newspapers, but don’t have any real stories about other topics. If you aren’t sure, click on the ‘About’ page and look for a clear description of the organisation. Most times they add one or two letters or numbers within the letters of the credible source and many people miss this.

Check the date:

Image ref: ThoughtCo

Some false stories aren’t completely fake, but rather distortions of real events. These claims can take a legitimate news story and twist what it says — or even claim that something that happened long ago is related to current events. So always take a look at the dates before hitting the share button.

Check your biases:

Image ref: DiversityQ

There are some stories that are difficult to put down because of your bias. We know this is difficult. Confirmation bias leads people to put more stock in information that confirms their beliefs and discount information that doesn’t. But the next time you’re automatically appalled at some Facebook post concerning, say, a politician you oppose, take a moment to check it out.

Consult the experts:

Image ref: The Alexander Group

We know life can get busy, and some of this debunking takes time. But you can send a message to a trusted journalist you know or someone involved in the story. You can go ahead and check the person’s social media profile to find out if there’s any information on such there.

Check the story is also reported in other places:

Image ref: Journalism.co.uk

There’s one thing about news – it goes round. Look to see if the story you are reading is on other trusted news platforms.  If you do find it on many other sites, then it probably isn’t fake (although there are some exceptions), as many big news organisations try to check their sources before they publish a story. 

Pause before you share:

Image ref: UN Geneva

The stop of the spread of fake news begins with you. Listen to your gut. If in doubt, please don’t share. Don’t allow your religious or cultural inclinations to put the chain shackles of “you must share” on you. If you see a message that threatens you to share or face a consequence like ‘missing God’s blessings’, that is fake news. Don’t let that push you to share.  

Take note. Not everything you see online is true. Do you have a question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.  

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