Ferreting Out Fake News Online

Sinead HawkinsBy Sinead Hawkins      August 7, 2020

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Ferreting Out Fake News Online
Photo courtesy of Wokandapix (pixabay.com)
The 2020 election is only a few months away and the amount of information available to the public is overwhelming. Social media sites, blogs, online publications, and videos provide a plethora of information, making it a challenge for the average news consumer to discern facts from false reports, whether written in articles, or viewed in videos. In the world of technology, opinion, and data overload, how can you be sure sources you are consuming are real? Here are a few ways to know the stories on social media are accurate. Is the News Source Real? Fake news sites tend to copy well known organizations by giving a “real look” and mimicking a similar title, logo, URL, and style of a reputable source. If you are quick to trust the site without double-checking, you could fall for the visual trick. Another smart practice is to read the “about” page of a site and check to see if an email or phone number is listed. Is it a private blog, political satire, or is it written by an organization that’s unfamiliar? Was the article published today or is it from years ago? News circulating online at times isn’t current or verified. Research the author’s name and other published content before deciding to trust information. Have Other News Outlets Covered This Story? If there is a piece of major breaking news, chances are multiple newspapers and websites will cover the story. Read other articles that are similar and compare the content. Multiple sources reporting the same news will more than likely confirm that it’s from a legitimate source. Could it Be a Joke? There are stories that will introduce a real news topic and then slowly become comedic toward the end of the piece. The purpose of these articles is to entertain and give a funny perspective, not to inform the public on correct information. Beware of Misleading Headlines Clickbait, provoking headlines designed to drive readers to advertiser’s sites, is often used to lure in people who are scrolling through the web. The article written may not reflect the headline. Read through the entire article before sharing it or have a conversation with a friend about the headline. If you want another telltale sign, the comment sections of articles like these are usually filled with angry warnings about the headline being misleading and different from the rest of the body paragraphs. Misinformation There are some stories that are outright, fake news. The intention is to persuade a targeted demographic on social media that the story is true. Look for grammatical errors, unusual punctuation, font in all caps, and lack of organization in the story. The intention is for the fake news to spread without readers taking the time to properly verify it, although, easier to spot, these types of stories are common. Make sure a news story is legitimate by fact-checking information. Become familiar with organizations like Snopes, factcheck.org and American Press Institute which specialize in filtering the media for inaccuracies, rumors, half-truths and satire stories. Look Out for “Deepfakes” Artificial intelligence technology is advancing, making it possible to create fake videos of real political figures, news anchors, and celebrities. These videos have audio and imagery convincing enough to seem realistic. According to the world’s first visual intelligence threat company, Deeptrace, at least 15,000 manipulated videos have appeared on social media platforms. Many deepfake videos are difficult to spot but there are obvious signs such as the subjects of the video not blinking, strange lighting, or audio that is out of sync with the person speaking on camera. Check Your Confirmation Bias Many podcasts, YouTube shows, blogs, and news outlets have direct bias towards the political left or the right. It’s important to challenge your personal views when consuming news that doesn’t confirm your political ideologies. Research news bias charts to assist you with choosing neutral news organizations and news wires that are written with objectivity. Finding non-biased content and consuming stories with a perspective different from your own views will give you a deeper understanding of the widely disputed issues and events happening now. References: • bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-14/how-disinformation-has-morphed-for-the-2020-election-quicktak • theguardian.com/technology/2020/jan/13/what-are-deepfakes-and-how-can-you-spot-them • forbes.com/sites/johnbbrandon/2019/10/08/there-are-now-15000-deepfake-videos-on-social-media-yes-you-should-worry/#398b8f1c3750 • freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/primers/fake-news-primer/ • prattlibrary.org/research/tools/index.aspx?cat=90&id=4735 • freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/primers/fake-news-primer/ • psychologytoday.com/us/blog/social-dilemmas/201711/how-spot-fake-news Sinead Rose Hawkins is a storyteller who has a fiery enthusiasm about politics, culture, history, and adventure. She has a lifelong fascination with news. ENFP. Artist. Confident. Journalist.
Sinead Hawkins

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