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How to identify fake news

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling on my phone when a friend of mine sent me a text message which stated some very interesting information about the current state of our country. It was a screenshot from an online news platform. Upon some research and a bit of my own journalistic research, I found out it was fake news.

This was upsetting as you can imagine and unfortunately, this kind of viral false news is part of the fabric of the internet today. This made me wonder about the phenomenon that is fake news and how we can eradicate it- or at the very least- make sure we can spot it from the truth.

What is fake news?

In the current digital climate, it is easy to fall prey to fake news. For society and the media industry at large, fake news is a thorn that is difficult to remove. Our responsibility as news platforms is to ensure that we fact check the information we publish. However, there are too many blogs and online platforms out there and there is very little that gatekeepers can do to regulate on the internet. 

Fake news is described as false or misleading information, presented as news. But how does one know if the information they have is misleading or indeed false?

Be Vigilant

It can be difficult to always be vigilant, however, there are a few things to look out for- red flags, if you will- that will help you spot fake news. If a story grabs your attention, always look closer. Check the name of the news source, it is a credible online platform? A simple Google search will give you clarity.

Any news story should have a quote or indication of an interview from people or organisations involved. It is Journalism 101. Most news organisations or journalists will not risk their jobs by quoting someone if they did not interview them, or if the information is false. Direct quotes are usually an indication of authenticity.

The Basics

Check for any spelling or grammar mistakes. Credible news platforms often have an editor to check for any typos and mistakes before an article gets published. Pay attention to the language that is used, it is formal or informal?

Find context, what is the crux of the story? Has the article pulled you in with a real headline only to feed you false news? Look for the gaps in the story or any information that does not connect to the headline. If you are still unsure, copy and paste the headline and do a webs search, can you find any other information about that specific story? If not, then that should be an indication that it may be false.

How do prevent the spread of fake news?

Unfortunately, fake news will always exist. Solving misinformation is not as easy as deleting a screenshot from your device. However, with freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, comes the responsibility of truth.

There are organisations and agencies that are trying to eradicate fake news. Allowing citizens to act as mediators to reduce the strain on media organisations. Social media platforms are also a place to report fake accounts or accounts that are spreading misinformation.

I’m sure we have all misunderstood stories because we didn’t look closely enough, however, by digging a little deeper and exercising our critical thinking, we can be part of the change.

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