Today’s age of the internet is the age of information and its daily onslaught is keeping netizens busy in reading and sharing it. It is not surprising to learn that most people don’t even know that a significant chunk of these news stories are fake, that is, either out-rightly false or planted in a certain way. Social media, news channels, and newspapers are the worst affected platforms by fake news stories.
However, fake news is not a new concept; it has been there for quite a long time in our society. Earlier also, people have been fooled by using tactics like misinformation, hoaxes, propaganda, and satire in order to disseminate a certain kind of narrative in the minds of readers. Mark Twain once famously said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed”.
Fake news has become a potent political weapon for some high and mighty, which they believe can win this information warfare for them to safeguard their interests. The 2016 presidential elections held in the United States saw the alleged involvement of Russian officials in swinging electoral votes in certain States. It was alleged that the Russians used propaganda and sowed confusion and chaos, and as a result, Donald Trump won the presidential elections. This fact was confirmed by a study conducted by Pew Research Center Study.
The fact is this example is just the tip of an iceberg, for the chances are there might be thousands of fake stories doing the round in the world. It is really unaccounted as to which fake news machinations are being used either to earn profits or to achieve vested interests. However, sometimes news stories written by research paper writers are credible because they conduct proper research to impart truth to the society. So, we shouldn’t be skeptical all the time.
Here are some important tips that can help you in spotting fake news stories:
- Verify the source
If in case someone has shared a piece of the news story with you, then make sure the source of the information is trusted. Find out which URL or domain has this article come from. Oftentimes in order to give a legitimate look to a website, unscrupulous people add .co at the end of it, for example: abcnews.com.co. You can also cross-check the author who wrote the story that seems doubtful to you.
- Does it seem plausible
Most of the time readers get attracted towards news stories that have eye-grabbing headlines. These are called clickbaits, which people readily go to, click and then share. Ask yourself whether the news story you are reading is plausible by using a good dose of common sense. Observing the current trends may be the key to knowing the veracity of the news, but this is where you can go all wrong and fall into the trap. Sometimes, authors go to extremes in order to catch attention, so if a particular story seems farfetched to you it probably is.
- Check the timing
Sometimes it’s all in the timing. People pick, choose and distort certain events that aren’t completely fake because of their political convenience. It is based on the premise that something may have happened long ago but it is also in some way related to current events. So, make sure that an old story isn’t being taken out of context.
- Take a second opinion
If you cannot clearly make of the legitimacy of the news article, it’s time to look around a bit at the rest of the media landscape. If the other trustworthy news outlets are also confirming the news story, then you can be sure of its originality. Do the details provided in different channels match up or not?
- Perform your own fact checking
You can perform a quick internet search about the content of a questionable news piece. You can use fact-checking tools for this task; for example, verify the news story with the help of urban legend-buster Snopes and professional cynic PolitiFact. There are other trusted ones like factcheck.org, International Fact Checking Network (IFCN).
Fake news is a malaise in the society because people tend to believe in falsehood due to catchy headlines. If this trend continues to rise even further, it can cause unimaginable damage to humanity. So, it is high time we have called the bluff of the fake news industry and we need to go much deeper than the mere headlines.