Fake news is a real problem that must be addressed quickly and effectively, foremost because it is not just about politics, but because its effects are presenting a real danger to society. After all, U.S. President Trump uses the phrase to attack mainstream media and describe to ANY news information that he believes is biased, unfair, or irresponsible.
If you have a friend who shared fake news, you call them out. You point it out and you tell them, because you probably are sharing the same friends, and by you pointing it out, people will take down something they shared, or they will correct it in the comments, and that somehow fixes whatever that fake news has reached – Clarissa David, Professor, University of the Philippines – College of Mass Communication
These are 5 tips for identifying fake news:
- Tone. Look at the tone of the website’s articles. This will give you a sense of what kind of content it produces. If featured stories are about aliens, miracle cancer cures, and such, it is an indication of the publication’s integrity.
- Search. If an internet search shows that websites like The New York Times, ESPN, or The Washington Post are reporting on the same story, it is much more likely to be true. But, if all the search results you discover cite the same questionable source, that suggest that the story might be a hoax.
- Disclaimer. If you are unsure about a news source’s legitimacy, search the website for any type of disclaimer. If you discover one, it is likely that the website’s content cannot be taken at face value. This is much more likely to be the case if the disclaimer is worded confusingly. Legitimate sites don’t need disclaimers.
- Emotional. One of the biggest ways fake news websites have been so effective is by tapping into people’s fears and emotions. Many false news stories purposely play on fears and anxieties, knowing that it will elicit an emotional response from the audience.
- Fact Check. There are websites devoted to debunking fake news. The oldest, and perhaps most well known, is Snopes.com – which fact checks urban legends. Another is FactCheck.org, – which tends to scrutinize the statements of politicians and other public figures.
Increasingly, the term fake news has become weaponized by public officials who use it to undermine independent journalism and personal freedoms. They do so in an effort to reach the public directly through their own channels and better control the reach and content of their message. In countries where a free press is a luxury and freedom of speech is not guaranteed, the phrase “fake news” is being used by officials as an excuse to clamp down on both forms of individual expression. To combat this, people must learn to identify and refute all forms of fake news.