Whilst there are news stories that you just know aren’t for real (Cow spotted on the moon!) there are many more that can catch people out. Knowing how to spot fake news is sometimes not as simple as "cows roaming the moon", so are there any ways we can tell for sure if it’s a real story?
5 Ways of Identifying Fake News
Who Said So? Your first port of call is who has published the article. Without casting aspirations or landing ourselves in some libel action there are certain publications that have, shall we say, more of a reputation than others for spreading made-up stories. This is not to say that the most trusted publishers haven’t made mistakes, but its worth you checking who is publishing the story, and the URL (web address) before you believe what is being reported. And a bonus point - just because someone you know and trust shared it on Facebook doesn't mean it is genuine.
Where Did You See It? Those sidebar links to other stories, or adverts, that you see on social media and certain webpages are often portals to the dark side of the web. Our recommendation is that you never click on one, but instead go open a new tab or window and research the story yourself. A sure-fire way of downloading something you don’t want to is through those tantalising headlines on the side, top or bottom of a webpage that use “click-bait” (headlines you can’t resist finding out more about).
Have You Checked Yourself? Celebrity gossip is a well-known source of fake news – just because you saw the headline that the Spice Girls are reforming and renaming themselves – now known as Old Spice – doesn’t mean it’s true. Before we rush head first into the “breaking news” and share it on our own social media feeds, go and double check the story elsewhere.
How Many Did You Say? "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Well said that man. “Our survey revealed that Britain is on the brink of addiction to Chamomile Tea – find out how this affects you!”. Look beyond the headline and see if you can find the real data behind the claims. A survey of 10 people who work in a health food café and who confess to drinking Chamomile tea every day does not make us a nation of herbal tea addicts.
But Researchers Said So! Its pretty common to see a news article backed up with scientific fact – surveys, research, studies et al that prove the headline of the article is correct. But do those stories tell you who carried out the studies? When was this research carried out? And don’t fall for a survey based upon numbers – if you surveyed 2000 five-year olds and asked them if they should be allowed more sweets you’d probably get a 90+% affirmative response – survey 2000 parents and the results would probably be reversed.
Unfortunately, we can’t add in at number six “if it sounds unrealistic then it’s probably fake” – news stories are not like that and there are some really bizarre stories that are actually correct. With all things online, you need to have a bit of scepticism and your wits about you. Its always worth double checking a story before you share it, verbally or online, if for nothing else than you don’t end up with egg on your face….