What is fake news?

Donald Trump seems to call fake news any reporting he finds inconvenient. Others have said they are worried that foreign governments and certain individuals have put false stories into the media to influence elections and our EU Referendum.  Outside of politics, some stories about celebrities have been found to be made up, probably maliciously.

Why does it matter if news is fake?

David Cameron (remember him?) has said he is worried this could undermine democracy, as voters need reliable information so they can make informed decisions. He is not alone in that opinion.

Can fake news affect you if you are not interested in politics and you’re not a celebrity?

We all need to make decisions in business and in everyday life and form our opinions of other people and of  businesses, countries, religions, charities and other organisations by what we hear about them. We could be making wrong decisions or we could be developing wrong attitudes, because we have believed fake news. This might not matter much or it might matter enormously, depending on the situation.

How can you spot fake news?

There are a number of things that can give you a clue. Then you can look a little further, or just take that story with a large pinch of salt. I will suggest a few more clues to look for in later blogs, but here are some to be going on with.

A detective with a magnifying glass, checking for fake news

A detective with a magnifying glass, checking for fake news

Clues for views of the news you choose.
The Source
  • Does it identify itself? If not, be wary.
  • Is there a link to a website? Does the site seem genuine?
  • Has it got a disclaimer? i.e. How confident are they of their facts?
  • Does it state the source of its information? How does someone in the UK know what’s going on in the Ukraine? What contacts have they got?
Are they having a laugh?
  • Does the site or publication intend you to take it seriously or is it just for laughs?
  • Is it satirical? Can you tell which bits they mean you to take literally, which they have exaggerated and which are ironic?
  • I find it easy to tell what’s what in Private Eye but not all mags or blogs make their distinctions as clear.
What’s in it for them?
  • Is the source biased? You can probably guess that Momentum will seldom promote stories favourable to the Tories and vice versa.
  • But will they be too quick to pass on unchecked stories about bad things the other side have done? (There are so many genuine ones, I can’t see why anyone would need to make any up, but you can’t satisfy some people!)
  • In a similar way, people in business, and lots of individuals who are not, have their agendas and grudges.  Can you see who has written the story? Can you find out more about them?
Don’t let statistics fool you either

Along with fake news, misleading statistics affect our opinions and even our decisions.

To protect yourself, have a look at my book,

How To Avoid Being Misled By Statistics by [Murray, John]

Don’t be fooled and don’t be a fake!

Think about these points. I will write about other clues to look for soon. PLEASE don’t add to the problem by creating fake news stories or by passing stuff on without checking it.