Nowadays, it may seem like everywhere you look online; there is false information. The worst culprit is Facebook, which has been the fastest channel for spreading fake news online.
We’re so lucky to live in the era of the internet. It gives unprecedented access to knowledge. Fortunately, you can learn to be safe and recognize the warning signs of fake news so you can still enjoy the best of the internet without falling into one of these traps.
Why is There Fake News?
Before diving into the tips, let’s take a minute and talk about fake news. Or, more importantly, why it exists. There’s nothing new about it.
Fake news is as old as history. Whether it’s gossip at the water cooler or a sensational story, it all has the same basis in fiction. And motivations for creating it can be just as varied.
Some fake news is put out by political organizations trying to sway people to their side. Others may be created by rival businesses looking to drive a competitor’s stock prices down. Some of it is made to cause disruption.
This is why you always have to be careful. Use your judgment when you’re online and use security and privacy tools like an ad blocker, spam filters, and a UK VPN. The latter prevents malicious actors from tracking what you do online. If they don’t know what you’re up to, they can’t find ways to leverage fake news against you. Click here for more information: https://nordvpn.com/servers/uk/
There’s no fool-proof list for identifying false information, but this will go a long way in helping you recognize it:
1. Is There a Bias?
There’s a large difference between the news story and an opinion piece. A news story should not have an opinion or show one point of view. It should be balanced.
For example, a website may only feature news stories that show a particular political party in poor light without ever telling their side of the story.
That’s a red flag you should pay attention to and a sign you might be looking at fake news.
2. Check the Source
On that note, who published the material you’re reading? Is there an author? What’s the author’s bio? If there is no link to more work and connected accounts, it might be a fake account.
Search their name online. Does it pop up anywhere else? Look at the webpages themselves. If they have legitimate domain names, that’s a good sign. Look into other important information like their domain authority. That’s a ranking of how trustworthy their site is based on the impression of search engines like Google.
3. Look At The Evidence
Credible stories are backed up with tons of facts. They’ll have quotes, data, statistics, and links. If you do not see things like that, that’s a bad sign.
Likewise, if the data is there, are they actually pointing to the series of events, or have they been twisted to support a particular viewpoint?
4. Don’t Trust Images or Videos
A picture is a thousand words. But the deep fakes that came on the scene last year prove that you can’t always trust images and videos. Editing software can be used to make it look like somebody said or did just about anything.
As with every other bit of information in an article, see where the media come from and make sure it’s supported by plenty of additional evidence.
5. Build a Critical Mindset
Ask yourself, “does this sound right?” You should always be skeptical and take everything you read (everywhere, not just online), with a grain of salt.
Many fake news stories are written to invite people to emotion. Take a second and ask yourself, why was this written? Is somebody trying to convince me of something or get me to do something?
Fake news stories are rarely benign. Their goal is to trigger emotional reactions, and you need to be able to pick up on this.
The Bottom Line
Just as in the real world, fake news is everywhere online. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t train yourself to recognize and be on the defense from it.
By honing your skills, checking sources, and examining why things were written, you’ll prevent yourself from becoming a victim of fake news. In doing so, you can help your friends and family and be an overall more informed citizen.
Best of all, it only takes a little time and effort before you’ll be able to spot most fake news stories from a mile away.