Fake news continues to generate a lot of discussions. Although differing stories and outright lies have played a part in news reporting since long, the advent of the Internet and social media has changed the game completely. The ease with which we can share information means false or malicious content can travel around the world with a click. And as the financial incentive grows, the fakers are becoming more sophisticated.
Research suggests that as many as half of all adults get their news directly from their Facebook feeds without critically considering the source of those posts. Many fake news sites benefit directly through advertising on their sites — which is why suggestive angles and click-bait headlines are used to generate revenue.
False, misleading and conspiracy-theory type stories can be harmful in several ways and can have personal ramifications for an individual, as well as more far-reaching effects — such as misinforming during an election campaign. Other types of fake news are unscientific stories without evidence in expert scientific opinion or research, which can have health implications, especially for those with life-threatening conditions.
How to spot fake news
There is some site that will verify news stories, and it is a good idea to know these sites. Some of them are:
- org: this site monitors the accuracy of US political stories.
- PolitiFact: this verifies political news stories.
- Snopes: this fact-checks Internet rumors and stories.
Some more steps to spot fake news are:
- If the domain name looks strange, like “.com.co”, it probably has fake news.
- The ‘About Us’ tab website is a good place to check a website.
- Get the same story from different news stories to see what everyone is saying.
- Consider the source by clicking away from the story to check other parts of the website.
- Read the full story, as headlines are made eye-catching to get clicks.
- Check the credibility of the author to see if they even exist.
- Click on the links supporting the story to see if the information provided there relates to the story.
- Check the date to see whether the story is not just refurbished or reposted and has lost relevance to current events.
- Be sure that it is not meant to be a satirical joke.
- Be aware that you are not being influenced by your own biases and prejudices.
- Consult an expert in the subject or get the story verified through one of the fact-checking websites mentioned above.
Ultimately though, readers and social media users need to exercise their own critical thinking to avoid falling for the fakers — and worse, sharing the fake news.