[HOWTO] Stopping Fake News
Fake news stories are no joke; they can have serious real-world consequences. Every one of us has a responsibility to stop, think, and verify before hitting the “share” button. If we do not share fake news, it will die. Here are a few tips to help you spot fake news and avoid the embarrassment of spreading it…
Hey, Did You Hear…?
...about the 115-year-old woman who won a gold medal at the World Breakdancing Olympics? Are you outraged by the Fisher-Price "Happy Hour Playset" for toddlers, that comes with a fake bar, stools and beer bottles? Were you surprised when the Pope endorsed Donald Trump, or shocked by news of an illicit child-sex ring run by Clinton staffers?
Of course, all those stories are completely bogus. But the last one almost caused a fatal encounter, when an armed North Carolina man drove to Washington, DC, to “self-investigate” whether a pizza parlor had a basement full of abused children. He was arrested after firing an AR-15 round into the floor of the pizzeria. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Fake news is spread mainly ON Facebook and Twitter. Both social media platforms have pledged to do more to identify fake news and stop its spread. But fake news is not spread BY Facebook or Twitter. It’s spread by the human users of these services. Check out these tips to help you discern spot the bogus stories.
Avoid sites whose names end with “lo” such as “Politicalo” or “Newslo.” They all belong to a network of sites that inject false “facts” and misleading interpretations into true stories, then distribute the poisoned fruits.
Domain names that end in “.com.co” are usually masquerading as legitimate sources. The same goes for “.com.cc” or any other “.com” name that has additional letters at its end.
If mainstream media is not reporting a story, it’s more likely that there is no story, than that the MSM does not want to report it. Be suspicious of any story that complains, “MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS IGNORING THIS!”
Beware of headlines and body text that use lots of capitalized words. All-caps text stirs up angry, anxious emotions in readers, making them more inclined to share without thinking.
If a story is written in a tone of outrage, it is likely to make you very angry too. Take a deep breath and check the story’s claims via Google before sharing it.
The lack of a date, location, or author’s name in an article should move your BS-detector’s needle. If your BS-detector is missing or faulty, try the B.S. Detector browser plugin. It checks every page you visit, comparing the domain names to a database of domains belonging to unreliable or questionable news sources, and will alert you with a banner across the top of the page if what you’re reading is potentially bogus. Links are categorized as Fake News, Satire, Extreme Bias, Conspiracy Theory, Rumor Mill, Junk Science, Hate Group, Clickbait, and Proceed With Caution (sources that may be reliable but require further verification).
Check the comments left on a story, if any are available. You may find someone has already debunked or verified the story.
A picture has more emotional impact than 1,000 words, and pictures can be faked too. I detailed several ways to evaluate the authenticity of images in my article, Is That Picture Real? Google Image Search is your best tool for learning where else a given picture has appears.
Why Does Fake News Exist and Flourish?
You may wonder why so many fake news sites exist. For the most part, they are created for revenue-generation or propaganda. One prolific purveyor boasted that he made over $10,000 a month from ad revenues on his fake news sites. Some pundits believe that fake news influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections. But there was plenty of hogwash across the entire political spectrum, so I doubt that it tipped the scales either way. At least we'll have a break from that for a while.
I still remember my sixth grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Arnold. That's because she took us through a lengthy study on propaganda, and how to detect bias in the news. This was in the 1970s, long before the Internet. But a recent Stanford University study found that while middle schoolers and teens today navigate the digital world with ease, most lack the "digital literacy" skills to evaluate the accuracy or trustworthiness of information online.
Kids in their teens and twenties are not reading newspapers or watching television news. By and large, they get their information and worldview from what they see on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube. So it's no wonder they have trouble distinguishing fact from fiction, but the problem of digital literacy certainly extends into other age groups.
The bottom line here is due diligence. Don't share a story without checking its veracity. It seldom takes me more than ten seconds to verify or debunk a news story using Google. That’s ten seconds well spent to avoid contributing to the confusion that is damaging society online and off, and to avoid the embarrassment of being called out by my friends.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 9 Dec 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [HOWTO] Stopping Fake News (Posted: 9 Dec 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved