Be alert – here are more ways to spot fake news

I have written before about fake news, saying why it is a bad thing and suggesting clues to help you tell the fake from the genuine. Here are a few more. Although no one thing can usually prove a story is fake, you should apply some of these tests before you believe everything you read.

Is old news fake news?
  • Does it say when the incident happened? How relevant is it now?
  • Something people did when they were children or teenagers may not be relevant now. Imagine reading¬†Candidate in drunken brawl,¬†and it didn’t say it happened when he was 17 and he is now 40?
  • War declared on USA would be misleading if it did not state that it was declared in 1812. Things are different now.
A mediaeval scribe writing old news
A mediaeval scribe writing old news
Read beyond the news headline.
  • Headline writers tend to go over the top. Read the article, or at least some of it, to get a feel for the whole story.
  • I remember a headline saying cure found for cancer. In the article, it said scientists could cure cancer in mice. They were about to investigate whether the treatment would work in humans.
Whose news?
  • If news is genuine and important, it will be in several papers, bulletins, blogs and news-sites.
  • If only one is carrying it, be wary, especially if it is only on social media. Why is it not on the BBC or in the papers?
  • Most social media sites do very little to check their facts, unlike TV and newspapers.
A picture can tell a thousand lies
  • If there is a photo or video with a story, try to find the connection. Is the picture just a general illustration of, say, soldiers going into battle or trees being cut down by contractors, or is it the actual ones in the story. How similar are they?
  • Pictures and videos can be altered or edited. This can be for good reasons, such as to cut out unnecessary detail but it can be for bad reasons, such as to give a different impression.
  • A photo shows only one moment in time but, without knowing the context, you can get a wrong impression. A kiss, a punch, the handing over of money, can all be wrongly interpreted out of context.
  • Even a video can be misleading if it is out of context.
  • Beware of letting a picture or video, especially an emotive one, determine your reaction to supposed events.
Get a second opinion on a news story
  • Do you know a reliable website or other source for information about stories on the same topic? Can you check the facts?
  • Even general background information can help make sense of a story.
Know yourself!
Two masks. Which shows the real you?
Two masks. Which shows the real you?

Try to be honest about your own biases and don’t just believe things you want to believe, things that will confirm your prejudices. (What do you mean, you haven’t got any?)

Truth is important. Let’s all beware of fake news and expose it for what it is.

 

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