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BLOG THE VIEW: 5 Ways To Check If Something Is Fake News

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THE arrival of Facebook and its social media replicas brought a wave of happy, shiny images into our lives with the promise of “making friends”. The downside of this powerful information tool, however, has been a deluge of fake news with a truly devastating impact.

With the ongoing pandemic, recent civil unrest and impending local elections, the time is ripe for a resurgence of fake news that is making the rounds. Make sure you don’t get caught by following these 5 tips.

Tip 1: be a critical reader
Everyone has some form of bias and this is quickly recognized by social media algorithms – this is why targeted advertising is so successful. They know what you want and deliver it to you on a silver platter. That is why we so often get caught up in fake news cycles – we read what we want to believe is true. The more you are aware of your own bias, the more likely it is that you will critically read and analyze the facts at hand.

Tip 2: check your sources
If your conspiracy theorist uncle in his aluminum foil hat tells you to go to a bunker because the aliens are on the way, would you believe him? However, if NASA held a press conference to alert you to the fact that it has discovered scientific evidence of alternative living, would you believe them? It’s similar with online stories. Check who’s reporting the news before you believe it. Extensions like .infonet or .offer instead of .com or .co.za should trigger some warning signals. And remember that legitimate sites can be faked too.

Tip 3: are other websites reporting the story?
When you’ve checked the sources and they seem legitimate, quickly see if other reputable news sources are covering the story as well. If it’s big enough to grab your attention, then no doubt the mainstream media would have picked it up too. Sites like CNN, Reuters, BBC, Daily Maverick, or Caxton have strict editorial guidelines, so try to check those first.

Tip 4: check the quality
Another big red flag is spelling or grammatical errors, or inconsistencies in the story. Are you using ALL UPPERCASE? Are there a lot of exclamation marks !!!!!? A reputable news source will perform thorough editing and correction so it is unlikely that such errors will recur. Does the story sound similar to a few years ago? If so, the story is likely being recycled or taken out of context.

Tip 5: Use fact-checking websites
Not only do you have to rely on your own guesswork or investigation when it comes to weeding out fake news, there are many websites devoted to weed out the lies. Some of the top sites you can check out are:

• FactsCheck.org
• Snopes.com
• PolitiFact.com
• Poynter.org
• Washingtonpost.com

Pictures can also be etched or recycled from ancient times. To check legitimacy, you can do a google reverse image search. Just right click on the image, choose “Search Google for Image” and check the results.

Fake news types
Remember that fake news is supposed to be believable or it won’t get passed on. And there are actually 3 types of fake news stories to watch out for:

1. Completely wrong
These stories are entirely made up and designed to get people to believe something wrong so that they will either visit a specific website or buy a product.

2. Stories that are sometimes inaccurate
These are often the most difficult fake news stories to identify as there is some truth in them, but the full truth is not given. One example is to include just part of a quote to make the story swing.

3. Gas lighting
This is the case when factually accurate stories are misunderstood as “fake news” in order to confuse and manipulate the masses. People are forced to doubt their own perception and the truth.

Don’t let yourself be manipulated, find out more. Check out any story before sharing!

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