5 Tips for Spotting Fake News and Misinformation Online
Ever since the creation of the press, there have been people who have been critical of the headlines that they’re reading. While there have been plenty of tabloids and parody publications throughout the years, it was easy to discern what was real and what was fake as it simply cost too much money to spread fake news via nationwide print.
These days, though, the internet has made it so that fake news can travel quickly. All it takes is a few bucks to host a website and post whatever you want to it, spreading the site across social media and calling it news. It’s now estimated that two-thirds of news on the internet is fake, but there are ways to take action. Here are five tips for spotting fake news and misinformation while browsing online.
Double-Check the Source
The easiest thing to do to spot fake news is to search the headline that you’re seeing on Google or Bing to see if the story is being reported by any other outlet. If it’s not, there’s a good chance that the story is fake news. However, a lot of people are either too lazy to check the story if it says something that they want to hear, and thus they’re more inclined to believe it.
People that fall prey to fake news in this manner often share the news saying that “nobody else is reporting on this!” While that’s true, it’s not because the other outlets don’t want to cover it, it’s because the story is fake. When sites post news that nobody else is posting, you can also check the site’s history to see if there’s a string of fake news being reported, and that will give you a good idea of the authenticity of the source.
Don’t Look For Confirmation
We touched on it just a moment ago, but allowing your confirmation bias to take the wheel on the internet is how you can fall into a fake news trap. If you’re a Republican, you probably look for stories that talk about Hunter Biden’s laptop containing information. If you’re a Democrat, you probably look for stories that talk about Donald Trump committing crimes. Either way, you’re going to find a lot of stories that confirm your biases through fake news.
Sure, there are going to be some sensationalized headlines, but the contents of the story could end up being legitimate news. That’s because some legitimate sources want to make sure to grab your attention, and it can look like fake news. Headlines are often used to play to your emotions to get you to stick around the site.
Believe it or not, some of the fake news stories that get shared the most were actually created years before they went viral. A lot of people don’t bother checking the date of the articles that are posted, and the site’s owners will often recycle their fake content on social media until one hits. These fake articles are typically evergreen, meaning that they aren’t bound by a simple date.
One example of this is something along the lines of “Former teacher of the President speaks out for the first time.” If the article is old, from a site that you’ve never heard of and hasn’t been updated daily, you can bank on it being fake.
Beware of Satire
Satire is fantastic, as long as you’re in on the joke. There are satire websites like The Onion that do a good job of coming up with headlines that could sound real but are completely fabricated from scratch. When people fall for satire and think it’s legitimate, it’s referred to as “eating the Onion.” People who aren’t familiar with these sites can often fall prey.
Headlines like “Biden, Trump Die 2 MInutes Apart Holding Hands” or “Idaho Becomes Latest State to Permit Execution By Firing Squad” are definitely attention grabbers, but were both posted on the same day by The Onion. Other satirical websites include Clickhole, Private Eye, The Daily Mash, and the Babylon Bee.
Pretty much every credible news story will have a journalist’s name attached to it. After all, when a big story breaks, the reporter will want the credit for breaking the story. When you find an article that you think might be fake news, you can do a quick Google search on the author’s name. If they don’t produce any results, it could either be a fake alias or someone that isn’t an actual journalist.
Oftentimes, fake story websites will use aliases for people that don’t exist, giving them a photo that they found on the internet and the whole nine yards. A quick search can find this person’s history if they have one, and you might find out that what you thought might be fake could be written by a Pulitzer Prize winner.