Fake news is a term often used to refer to fabricated news, found in traditional news, social media or non-reputable websites. There is no basis in fake news, but is normally presented as being factually accurate. Fake news is however, not a new phenomenon. Its rise and fame has been around since humans have been able to relay information from spoken word, to the first newspapers and now, to social media.
It should be noted that, when one is armed with the right tools and information, anyone is able to differentiate between fake and real news.
Below is a quick guide to identifying fake news:
a) Check the source;
If you are reading an article on a website you have never heard of before, take a look at the website’s “Contact” and “About Us” pages. If the site is meant to be humorous, these pages will typically have a disclaimer. If a disclaimer is lacking, that’ could be a red flag, as most news outlets want their readers to be able to contact them and learn more about them.
b) Do not judge a book (or a news article in this case), by its cover;
Unreliable sites will often use misleading headlines to lure in readers and clicks. Before sharing a story with an outrageous claim, keep reading on the whole story. Some authors have a tendency to bury the lead in efforts to make the story more attractive. Credible and trustworthy sources should be used to back up the claim made in the headline.
c) Take a look at the URL;
Does the URL appear doubtful in some way? If so, this could be a tell-tale sign of a website that shares fake news, as some fake news websites try to mimic the URL, logo, and design of legitimate news websites, in order to trick readers.
d) Are other news sites reporting on The Story;
Chances are, if the majority of other news sites are reporting on the same story, it is at least partially true. Read multiple stories on the same subject to see what sources are being used and where the differences lie.
e) Be suspicious of sloppy writing;
If you are reading an article and the author uses five exclamation points at the end of a sentence, it is often fake news of some sort. Also be skeptical of an abundance of spelling or grammatical errors, or if the writer uses caps lock.
Most credible news sources have copy editors that will check for these mistakes before publication, and will also have rules restricting writers from using features like caps lock for the sake of professionalism.
f) Quotes – or lack of quotes;
A sure sign of credible journalism is the presence of quotes. This adds an additional layer of integrity, allowing readers to do some research on the individual quoted and decide if they are a reliable source of information. Absence of quotes is usually a sign of an opinion piece, either published as a blog post or a column, or of fake news.
g) Utilize media literacy sites;
When fake news stories start to go viral, these sites typically pick up what is real or not. Know that using just one of the above methods alone is not a valid way of identifying fake news. These methods are meant to be used together.