Fake news is not new. What is recent, however, is how quickly it can spread through the internet.
It’s impact is increasing, especially in politics, and may well have influenced BREXIT and the US Presidential election.
So, what can we do to spot such news – quickly?
Most of us scan news fast, and the writers who create such news know how to get our attention and draw us in.
The most important component is the headline.
Many news creators don’t write their own material. Instead, they find the story and create a sensationalised headline.
A sensational headline may:
- Appeal to our emotions
- Take a controversial stance
- Introduce misleading information
The headline pulls us into the story, so we need to be especially wary of it.
The next part to look at is where the story is from – does it have authority?
We need to look at the website and the writer.
We can trust some sources, especially the major news outlets, to do good journalism. They should check their sources and facts before putting something out there for us to read.
There is an industry, however, of organisations that create material and then use social media to get it in front of people, and they can be hard to distinguish from reputable ones.
We don’t need to do it all ourselves though.
The chances are that someone else has already flagged the story as untrue or fake and posted a comment on the post or the site.
Scanning through the comments will give us an idea of whether the story is likely to be true or not.
If we have the time, before we believe something, we should try and look for another independent source that confirms the story.
This is different from stories that reference the same source. The internet is full of circular references where stories cite each other.
We just need to read more carefully before sharing these days.