This post is also available in: Spanish
By Arpana Gautam
We all have been there – one news or the other.
Whether they are the seemingly beneficial WhatsApp messages shared by our concerned relatives in the family group or thought-provoking news headlines of the articles shared in Facebook.
Fake news has now been an imminent part of social media and websites.
Along with using fact checking websites and apps (like AltNews and Fact Checker) to know the credibility of the news, here are some simple steps that you can take to identify fake news. It’s not an exhaustive list as, just like rumours, fake news build upon existing news and hence are hard to spot. But, these points are definitely a good start to identify fake news.
1. Always check the source
- What is the name of the page & who is the author?
- What does their “About Us” page say?
- Was the news shared on a news website or social media platforms?
Whenever you come across a news story, always check the page name and look for other news articles that they have published. Check their “About Us” section for additional information regarding their credibility.
If you notice anything off, Google the name of the website.
If you have received the news as a WhatsApp forward, ask the sender about the details of the news. If they don’t know enough, do not share the news further.
2. Don’t just read the headlines
- Is the headline provocative?
- Is the headline giving too much information?
- Always read the full article before jumping to conclusions solely based on headlines.
Often, fake news articles use misleading headlines to get more views, clicks, and shares. Always read the full article before drawing any conclusion and sharing it.
If a headline looks too outrageous to be true, then it could be a click-bait.
Check the comments section to see what the people who have read it have to say.
Read beyond the headlines and if you don’t have the time to, don’t share either.
3. Scan your emotions after reading the news
- Do you feel strong emotions after reading the news?
- Does the article align towards any bias that you have?
- What is the purpose of the news? Is it informing, educating, pursuading, or provoking?
Fake news rely on emotional responses of the readers to get more shares and likes. Try to understand what the article is trying to do.
Is it trying to inform, persuade, or provoke?
If it is an informational article, are the facts correct? Is the article reporting all sides of the story?
Check the type of articles the site/page posts and always evaluate what the article is making you feel.
4. Look for quotes by actual people
- Does the news article have credible sources to back their story?
- Have they provided links to credible sites?
- Are there any statements by prominent people in the article?
Credible news articles always provide links to credible sources to strengthen reliability. Further, they quote the statements of the people involved in the news.
If there was a burglary, you can expect a quote from the local police officer. If an 8-year old cancer patient needs your help, then you can expect to see their name and details.
If the sources and quotes are missing, you need to dig further before sharing the news.
5. Inspect images carefully
- Zoom in the image carefully and look for any details that you can find.
- Check if the image is trying to cover texts using banners or too much graphics.
- Is the image edited or is it real but used in the wrong context?
Fake images are used for instant attention grabbing & can be seen in two forms- Edited images and real images used in the wrong context.
Spotting fake images is quite hard due to professional editing software available.
Try inspecting if an image is fake by zooming in and looking for location details and other information you may find.
Also, running a Google Reverse Search will be helpful.
6. Google the news to confirm
- Has the news been covered by other sources?
- Does the news article offer all sides of the story?
- Is the news feeding your confirmation bias?
A simple Google search of the news will show all the sources that have covered the news so far.
Fake news often build around existing real news and hence, become difficult to spot.
Read the same news from different sources to understand all the instances/angles of the news and not just the one that the fake news is spreading.
With the increasing prominence of Internet content & social media, fake news have also massively increased. The points mentioned here are just some criteria you can use to evaluate fake news.
Ultimately, it is you who must be aware of your emotional triggers and examine everything critically.
Always pause before you share or forward anything.
Arpana Gautam is a Marketing professional and freelance writer. She writes about topics related to business, psychology, productivity, culture, and policies. In her free time, you can see her enjoying her tea, cycling, reading, cooking, and writing for her blog- https://putaneffort.com