The Modern Struggle: Verifying User-Generated Content on Social Media

Licensed for use by Creative Commons

With the internet and social network accessible to anyone nowadays, there is tons of news that is out there. For the journalist, it is their own responsibility to ensure that any source from which they are using to post about breaking news is both timely and accurate. With that in mind, here are five steps to ensuring that you are seeing and passing on the most reliable information as possible.

  1. Check the date. Probably the simplest thing to verify, but often overlooked. Make sure the date of whichever news that you are seeing corresponds with the current time frame. Twitter users fall for this quite frequently, as old tweets from previous events manage to get accidentally circulated during a current one.
  2. Verify that the poster is who they say they are. Another big one, especially on Twitter. With the influx of information, “Fake” accounts of certain trustworthy news sources are popping up all over the place in an attempt to mislead people. Check the spelling of the username and how many followers they have, or look for the verified symbol on Twitter to ensure you aren’t falling for a fake account.
  3. Reverse search the content. In the era of Photoshop, images can be easily manipulated to show something that originally wasn’t there. If any news story features a photo, or is simply just a photo, reverse search it on Google Images to find out if was taken from another source or altered in any way.
  4. Look at the poster’s network. Who follows them? Who do they follow? Are there other reliable sources that see news from this person as well? Do you have followers in common? These simple questions can help answer whether a news story is true or not.
  5. Check the other content. See if the person posts often about the breaking news topic. Are their other posts important pieces of news, too, or just strange individual ones? Do they engage with their followers in a professional manner? Looking at previous content from the source can easily show you if information is not valid.