Identifying Fake News

Identifying fake news can be a tricky affair. Many of these are innocuous forwards from friends and family on WhatsApp while some are viral on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and find their way into our newsfeeds, again, shared by friends.

But how does one recognize fake news. A simple mix of common sense, curiosity, and a questioning attitude is usually enough. If something seems too outrageous, or too easy, or too easy/hard to believe, it should be enough to raise your antennas for fake news.

Most fake news items also come with a heavy dose of opinion and/or appear to present opinion backed by so-called ‘facts’. In both cases, it becomes incumbent to check the facts, using one of our many tools.

As with journalism, the basis of busting fake news involves some smart questioning of what is being presented. As the saying goes, if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. In other words, it’s fake.

Another quick way of identifying fake news, particularly on social media platforms, is to look at the profile of the person posting it. Typically, a quick look will alert you to the kind of content the persons posts, what s/he shares regularly, and who his/her circle of social media followers are. Typically, such persons tweet along predictable lines, in cohorts, and often with sensational language.

Checking a particular website’s other content can also provide pointers to whether a piece of information originating there is likely to be true or false. Fake news websites typically tend to upload content that is verifiably false.

The best way to identify fake news, of course, is to use Google tools as well as a few others to locate the origin of both images and videos, and use those to debunk fake news.

Images can be fact-checked using Google’s Reverse Image Search, as can screenshots from videos. Other tools can be used to distinguish fake news emanating from social media profiles, as well as from fake news websites.

We will look at these techniques and tools in our How To section as well as Case Studies.

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