How to Spot Fake News

Posted by Jacqueline Sit on 07/05/2017

I have seen too many Facebook posts go viral, garnering thousands of angry comments, only to discover the story was bogus, or was repurposed news from years ago.

Once, I was shocked to read about feces floating off the Hawaii beaches where my family lives. When I shared the story with my relatives, my direct sources discounted the stories.

Unfortunately, nobody can count on having a personal connection to verify or refute everything she reads. But if general users spent more time digging a little deeper and less time sharing recklessly, online angst might not ignite into a digital wildfire so often.

Facebook joined in the fight. The world’s dominant social network now offers an “educational tool” as it tries to weed fake news out current events. The company changed the algorithm it uses to display posts to reduce bogus articles designed to deceive people. However, there is only so much social media platforms can do to identify fabricated stories. Readers must take proactive steps.

Here are five ways to find the facts:

Read beyond the headline

A new study reports only four in 10 Americans do more than read news headlines. Readers who want to know what’s really going on need to read several paragraphs of serious stories. This helps them spot misleading or incomplete headlines, and learn more about where information came from.

Verify the source

Factcheck.org is a valuable resource to filter out false information from reality. Informed readers must also stay updated on a changing media landscape, because it can be very easy for small groups to put up professional-looking sites with no credibility. When people see a site with an unfamiliar name, they must review the publication’s reputation. Search the website’s About Us section, double check the URL and see if anyone else is reporting the news.

Use multiple resources  

Google News added a “Fact Check” tag to identify articles reviewed by news publishers and fact-checking organizations. Chrome extensions are another resource for technology to flag fake news sites.

Reframe the picture

Does a photo in the story you’re reading look fake? Dig deeper. Upload, drag and drop an image into Google Image to find the image’s origin. Many fake news stories, especially after disasters, take images from movies or previous events and pass them off as current. 

Don’t take information at face value

Sometimes the news posted online is not new. The information presented is often misrepresented and outdated. Snopes.com has been a reliable reference exposing misinformation and myths for decades. Research the rumors, check the publication date and carefully inspect the domain name to shun out the satires.

Jacqueline SitSenior Account Executive, Candor

Jacqueline Sit is a two-time Emmy-nominated journalist with a decade of in-depth communications experience. She puts her writing and broadcast skills to use by helping clients with everything from media and crisis communications training to social media, reputation management and strategic counsel. She previously reported for News 9 in Oklahoma City and for stations in Texas and Oregon. She joined Candor in 2013 and the firm has served more than 100 clients in various industries including healthcare, education, technology, retail, nonprofits and more.  

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