How to Identify Fake News

Millions of pictures, videos and articles are being uploaded to the internet every single day. Not only from journalists — anyone, anywhere can upload anything they want.

These posts are being rated, commented on and shared, hated and liked, which is also what’s most important to a lot of authors — to get a lot of views, shares and likes. Whether something is real or just made up, is seemingly less so.

Nowadays it is difficult to find out whether something is legit, or if it’s Fake News, but it is important you do, because Fake News is often published to spread and install a certain opinion about an issue or topic, whether that’s for personal, economic, or political reasons (sometimes all three).

In times of change and uncertainty, for example during presidential elections, it is especially easy for people to make up stories and spread them. This is because people under these circumstances are less likely to question their legitimacy.

Here is how you find out whether what you saw, read or heard is real or simply made up:

Step 1: The source

Check the profile, account and website the story is posted on. When was the profile created? Is the account verified?

Make sure to check the website the article is published on carefully: a single letter in the URL can make all the difference! For example: ABCnews.go.com and ABCnews.com.co. These fake websites often not only imitate the URL but also the logo and design of the original one, so be cautious.

Also pay attention to the formatting of the website: are there a lot of spelling mistakes or does the layout seem off? — if this is the case, it is a sign that the website most probably is unreliable and you might want to look into the topic some more to find out whether the story is real or fake.

And, make sure to check if the website or author is known for posting Fake News, or even satire — sometimes we just don’t get the joke.

Nationalreport.net: A popular Fake News/satire website.

Step 2: The facts

Look up the numbers and statistics given in the article.

Often the results of statistics are twisted and turned until they fit the story. This is why it is so important to read multiple posts from diverse sources on the same topic.

More often than not, when you google an article, there will already be posts about it on websites like snopes.com or factcheck.org that monitor the internet in to find made up news stories, videos or pictures, then refute them.

Snopes.com

Step 3: The pictures

Pictures used in fake articles are taken out of context or manipulated to suit the story and support the point that the writer is trying to make.

On Google images for example, you can reverse search a picture to find out where it originally came from. This is a common way of uncovering fake news.

Google Images Reverse Search: investigate a picture’s origin by uploading it or pasting its URL

To see for yourself how easy it is to make a fake video appear very real, you should check out this video by The Woolshed Company: over the span of two years, the Australian video makers faked eight viral videos as part of a Screen Australia project. Even the news reported on some of the videos, without realising they were fake.

Think critically and don’t believe everything you read and see on the internet. If something seems sketchy, check it out! In just a few minutes you can find out whether a post is fake or not, and it saves you from social media humiliation and spreading lies.