With fake news becoming more and more of an issue in today’s world its worth making sure you understand what it is, why the spread of it is dangerous and how you can help prevent it! As social media and sharing news within social media platforms has become so prominent, now more than ever it’s crucial that we fact-check before we share and heavily consider the agenda behind an article or why it might have been written and shared.
Is the source a reputable site? Have they posted other relevant articles? Would their content hold up under the same academic scrutiny you would use to critically evaluate a journal or article that you might use in an essay?
Is the domain name legitimate? -
Look out for fake or deceptive URLS where the aim is to mislead a reader into trusting the legitimacy of a site, eg is it “www.bbc.co.uk/news” or is it” www.bbc.co.uk.co/news” there are many fake news sites that will use legitimate looking URLs to try and fool their audience.
Author (similar to source) -
Has the author posted other articles? (if so what were they about/ how were they received?) Is the author well known or respected in their field? Does the author often post articles with an agenda to divide or incite? Is the author affiliated with any group, body or political party that might influence their agenda?
Date originally posted –
Is an old news article being used at an inflammatory time to perpetuate hate or stereotypes? Eg has an old article been reposted out of context at a time of tension due to other events?
Quality of writing-
Is the article well written? Are there spelling errors or sections written in block capitals used to convey emotions like anger or outrage? Legitimate articles will usually take the time to spell and grammar check their content before posting it.
Is it satirical? –
is it too ridiculous to be true? Has the post been intentionally written with humour in mind? Most of the time the satire is obvious but there are times people share satirical posts under the assumption that the outrageous headline is true.
Is anyone else reporting it? –
Is it appearing on any other legitimate news sites? If the news is valid, it will most likely be picked up and reported on by multiple news sources. Be wary and apprehensive of news only coming out of one news site/article.
Don’t just read the headline –
This almost goes without saying but a huge problem with the spread of fake news is that some articles will have intentionally misleading headlines that imply something has happened or is true but which you will find out isn’t the case when you read the full article.
Data sources -
Were the surveys carried out legitimate? eg was the sample size representative or was only one particular group of people asked. Even if the data sample was valid, the data collected may be portrayed in a misleading way.
Is it sponsored content? –
Some web based news sites will include sponsored content on their websites. These are often written to look like a typical news article however they are actually advertisements that companies have paid to have included. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/taste-of-australia/
Additional tips -
Do your own research and/or visit fact-checking websites such as snopes.com or factcheck.org. Finally take everything shared on social media with a grain of salt, these days anyone can have an opinion or make something up and immediately upload it online and share it.