Fake News: How To Spot Bogus Information Online
Fake news is everywhere, and it can be dangerous. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, misinformation has been going viral (if you’ll excuse the pun). Fake news can affect your world view in potentially damaging ways, leading people to refuse legitimate medical treatment and even luring them toward bizarre conspiracies like QAnon.
“Don’t believe everything you read online” is a good guiding principle but the problem is that there is a lot of legitimate information on the internet. Developing a critical eye is crucial to stopping the spread of misinformation. What should you look out for? Isn’t the mainstream media also full of misinformation? We’ll look into this below:
The Mainstream Media
Those who fall for fake news are often those who are critical of what they view as the media of the establishment. This mistrust is neither misplaced or unfair: journalistic integrity seems to have gone out the window in favour of sensationalist headlines and politically motivated opinion pieces. However, it’s important to be critical of all online media and sometimes who’s talking is important.
For example: a medical professional will have more expertise on the area of medicine than an engineer. This is often the first step in analyzing information online. There are a lot of journalists doing a very good job at reporting on events worldwide, but the problem comes in when people only rely on one source of information for their news and disregard any other information without a fair conversation.
How To Spot A Phony:
- Check The URL
Proper news outlets, even independent journalists and researchers will have URLs that make sense. If the headline you’re reading comes from a site called ‘realtruthnews.au’ you might be in for some bogus information.
- Check The Author
If someone’s name isn’t available on a text that they’ve published, it’s a good sign that they’re not qualified to talk about the subject they’re discussing. If the author’s name is available, do a little research. Are they a controversial figure? Have they been associated with spreading fake news in the past?
- Check The Date
Sometimes old reports are published as if they’re new. When it comes to science-related reporting this can be a very clever way to sway public opinion. Make sure that studies being referenced are not outdated or refuted. Rather opt for papers that are peer-reviewed and have been cited by more than just one publication.
- Check Yourself
Fake news works because it causes an emotional response, much like when you make a profit with crypto currency. If a headline or article leaves you seething with anger, take a moment, breathe, and then see if there are any other sources to back up what you’ve just read. The authors of misinformation use this emotional response as people are more likely to spread information that causes outrage.
Think Before Your Share
If something seems interesting and important, take a moment to actually read, analyse and fact-check what you’re seeing before posting it to a social media platform. Not only can it save you from possible embarrassment, it also keeps your friends and family safe from misinformation.