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How To Check For And Identify Fake News
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A lyric from a popular song says that ‘bad news travels like wildfire’, but in the age of the Internet, now it can travel even faster than that. It’s become easier than ever before to send and receive information; all you have to do is click the conveniently placed ‘Share’ button or icon.

When do you share a piece of news? Most likely if it makes you happy, sad or angry. In short, emotional. News that provoke emotional responses is far more likely to get the ‘share first, verify later’ treatment. Once it goes viral, it can have a huge impact on reputations and create conflict, even if the news is later proven false.

So how do we stop being part of the fake news problem and become responsible readers? Here are some suggestions.

1. find out if the source is credible

Every storyteller chooses how to tell their story, so look carefully at the source of the news you’ve just received. Is it from a legitimate news website known for balanced reporting? An official statement in a government portal? Those are more likely to be credible sources as they have standards to uphold and a duty to maintain accuracy.

However, if it’s from a dubious tabloid site, or a much-forwarded chain Whatsapp message, then it’s immediately a good fake news candidate. Even if the message was sent by a friend or loved one, don’t take their word for it. Do your own checks.

2. Read critically

Don’t get taken in by clickbait titles – “Scientists Just Discovered This Amazing Way To Cure Cancer!” Titles are usually designed to ‘bait’ you into clicking on the article by provoking an emotional response. They’re banking on our increasingly short attention spans to ensure that you gloss over the actual article and just share reactively.

Take the time to really read the news or article. Does it have actual facts, figures and substance backed by research? Does it present balanced information and quote credible parties from both sides?

Or is it mainly the writer’s opinion? Sweeping too-good-to-be-true statements like ‘eating cucumbers cures cancer’, or provocative quotes from ‘unnamed sources’? These signs can be helpful indicators of whether you’re reading real information or pure fluff.

3. verify your news with multiple sources

If you have doubts about an article, do a quick search for it on any search engine and see what pops up. If there are multiple sources posting the same news, especially on different platforms (i.e. news sites and Twitter posts talking about an earthquake) there’s a higher chance it might be true. There are even sites dedicated purely to debunking myths and rumours.

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell whether an article is satire or not (using humour or exaggeration to poke fun at an issue), especially when the article is deliberately crafted to look like a real news piece. If it sounds too ridiculous to be believable, it probably is. So before you get offended or shocked, check first!

You can’t rely only on one site to say that an article is credible. For example, Wikipedia is used as an informational resource by many people. Most of the time its facts are legitimate, but it has occasionally been a victim of troublemakers who exploit its public edit feature to spread fake news about celebrity deaths.

4. Check the date

Sometimes, old news reappears in the spotlight and gets shared again as if it were fresh. This is usually due to some recent related event triggering a spike in interest in the article’s topic.

When people search for terms related to that event, the article pops up on search engines. People then reshare it because they find it still relevant or – more commonly – they think it’s a new article.

This might seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how often people forget to look at the date. Always check the date of your news as it may be outdated, or worse – if it was published on April Fool’s Day!

5. When in doubt, wait

Can’t find any conclusive information on the news? Not sure which side is telling the true story? When in doubt, don’t share. Be patient and wait for the authorities and journalists to investigate.

Sharing without conclusive proof, particularly about something that could damage someone’s reputation, is the online equivalent of pronouncing someone guilty until proven innocent. It doesn’t just affect the subject of the speculation, either – it also hurts their friends and family.

Sharing information should be done only to make sure people are aware of real news they need to know. Be very careful about sharing news that push you to do something as well, such as changing your bank password. Better to err on the side of caution and reserve judgment (and sharing) until there is real proof.

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