The internet has clearly overtaken traditional print media as the latest news outlet. Real-time news updates and availability of news on internet enabled devices makes it a popular option. With the sheer amount of information available online, spotting fake news has become a real problem.
Why do people create fake news online?
The simplest reason is, fake news brings a lot of traffic to the published website. In return they make money through advertisement clicks or impressions. One of the biggest fake news of 2016 was “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Donald Trump for president”. The news went viral and created a lot of buzz before being revealed as fake!
How to spot fake news?
There are many ways you can spot a fake news article or website, Facebook.com provides some helpful tips on being aware:
- Be skeptical of headlines: False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
- Look closely at the URL: A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
- Investigate the source: Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
- Watch for unusual formatting: Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
- Consider the photos: False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
- Inspect the dates: False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense or event dates that have been altered.
- Check the evidence.: Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
- Look at other report: If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
- Is the story a joke: Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
- Some stories are intentionally false: Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.
If you prefer information more visually, The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) have created a simple infographic on spotting fake news.
There are even browser extensions to notify you of possible fake news websites or if an article is suspected of being fake. Chrome app store (for Chrome browser) will list you of the many options available. Some of the most popular ones are:
Personally, I follow the tips mentioned above when I come across a heading which sounds suspicious. Extensions and apps do help but are not always accurate. Keep the above in mind when you come across something which simply sounds too good to be true.