How To Spot Fake News
It’s getting harder to tell what’s true and false on the Internet, in social media, email, and on web sites. There are many con artists out there, and they become ever more sophisticated in their efforts to manipulate your perceptions, opinions, and most of all, your behavior. Here are some tips to help you tell truth from fiction, and avoid becoming someone’s puppet...
Truth or Fiction?
First ask, “Who wrote it?” Most reliable news articles, memes, email campaigns, etc., include the name, bio, and affiliation of their authors. If you can’t examine the source, the information should be viewed skeptically. A Google search of an author’s name should provide significant results, which should be examined critically.
It’s hard to fake a substantial Google history. A blue check mark next to a Facebook or Twitter profile indicates that the social media network has verified the identity of a person or organization; but that does not mean the verified entity is trustworthy. One recent example involved ABC reporter Brian Ross, who made erroneous statements regarding Michael Flynn and President Trump. Did bias blind him, or did he just not bother to vet his sources in a rush to be first to break the story?
Does the headline match the article? Con artists know that people often share articles without actually reading them. Don’t be one of those people. A headline that makes an incendiary claim may be attached to an article that does not support the claim. Read thoroughly and critically before sharing, or you may end up the object of scorn among your friends who do. Worse, you may end up complicit in victimizing others with fake news.
Check the source’s domain name, using Who.is or ICANN to look up DNS registration info. Often, the true owner of a domain is protected by having a gatekeeper complete the registration info. But you can still glean useful info from the record. If a domain was just registered recently, be skeptical. If a site that focuses on USA news is registered in a foreign country, wonder why.
If a site is mimicking an established news organization by registering its domain name in another top-level domain, have nothing to do with it. Be especially wary of news sites using the ".CO" domain. ABCnews.com.co (now defunct) was a source of many fake news stories during the 2016 elections. Similarly, “CNN.co” is not “CNN.com” even if the sites look nearly identical.
Don't be Duped by Dubious Depictions
Have you seen headlines on Facebook that say "Southwest Airlines is celebrating their 50th anniversary by providing 2 free tickets to everyone"? It's an obvious scam, and the link takes you to soutwest-air.com (note the missing "h"), a phony site that prompts visitors to take a short survey to get the free tickets.
Ask yourself "Is this article satire?" The most outrageous articles often are. They often start out believable, then make ever more ridiculous claims. The astute reader will reach a point of incredulity and say, “This can’t be real! Can it?” Your threshold of outrage that prompts such questions should be rather low. Check the article carefully for clear statements like “this is satire.” Check the site's “about” page to see if it declares that it publishes satire.
Has the “news” been widely reported independently of the article you’re reading? An upstart web site is unlikely to have a scoop on significant breaking news. Search Google News for other articles on the subject. If they cite only the article you’re questioning, they’re useless. If there are no other independent sources of “news,” it is probably phony.
Checking the Facts
Scientific claims should be specific and provide links to the research paper(s) they cite. “According to a recent study…” is utterly inadequate. A significant research topic will be studied by many reputable researchers. Even if a cited study has been “peer-revieved” in a scientific journal, you should be skeptical about the quality of that journal and its peer-review process. The journal aggregation site SciMagOJr can help your vet a journal’s reliability.
Check the fact-checkers; they are invaluable resources in this age of rampant fake news. Snopes.com is still busting myths every day. (If you don't trust Snopes, try another myth-busting site such as Hoax-Slayer or TruthOrFiction.)PolitiFact won a Pulitzer Prize for its debunking of political phonies. The International Fact Checking Network verifies many claims on global issues.
It is in your best interest to verify the accuracy of what you choose to believe. As Gandhi famously declared, “I will not allow other people to walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” It is also your duty to society to share only what is true.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Dec 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How To Spot Fake News (Posted: 7 Dec 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved