Before the election the issue of fake news was on few peoples’ radar. Since the election it has become clear that fake news sites are out there, their content is shared widely, and they create an environment where it is nearly impossible to tell fact from fiction.
62% of Americans get at least some news from social media. While Facebook and Google are looking into how they can limit the reach and impact of fake news sites you are still likely to come across news stories with very little basis in fact. Or unbelievable headlines that don’t describe the story they are linked with (click-bait).
Here are a few things you can do to keep the spread of fake news down to a minimum:
Fact-check. The most time-consuming of the suggested actions but also the most effective. With some practice it becomes easier to identify fake news. Here are some things to look for:
- Does the article’s headline evoke an emotional response? Click-bait sites use headlines with strong language and information that seems unbelievable.
- When a headline makes you question its veracity, read the article. Does the article cite sources? Are those sources reliable? Click on a few links in the article. Do those links take you to reputable sites with news that corroborates the other article?
- Are other media outlets reporting the same story? Typically, when something big and unbelievable happens more than one media outlet will pick up on it. Whether liberal or conservative the same story will appear but with a different spin.
- Use sites like FactCheck.org, Politi-Fact, and Snopes.com. Liking one or two of these sites on Facebook and adjusting the settings on them so you see them first is a helpful way to aid you in spotting fake news.
Don’t share articles you haven’t read. At some point we’ve all shared an article based solely on the headline. This can spread misinformation and fuel fake news sites. For anything you think you want to share, at least click into the article and take a quick skim.
Politely call out articles you know are untrue or click-bait. When you spot a friend or acquaintance posting an article from a fake news site, politely engage with them and let them know the article is fake. I have seen this done in some very respectful ways on people’s pages. If you don’t want to make your request public, you can always message them.
When sharing a satirical article describe it as such. Misinformation and fake news is also spread through misunderstanding of the type of media outlet that is producing it. An article from The Onion may have a very convincing headline and be taken as real news to those who aren’t familiar with it. I must say there have been times I have done a double-take on one of their posts.