Fake news is starting to run rampant through social media and the internet. Every time I scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or even Snapchat, I find fake news. Being able to distinguish between fake news and real news can be difficult. There have been times when I was sure a headline was just too crazy to be real, but it was shared by my local news station and ending up being a legitimate story. Both Google and Facebook have begun to crack down on false and misleading news but they haven’t been able to make much headway.
Before we jump into knowing the difference between fake news and real news, let’s talk about why this has become such a problem. The long and the short of it is money. Sensational headlines sell and ad companies who get money each time we click on these sensational headlines (pay per click) aren’t bound by any laws or moral codes to look into the credibility behind these headlines.
So how can you look a little more critically at these news stories?
- Know fake news is out there
The first step is just knowing that false or misleading news are part of your internet and social media experiences. In years gone by, most news was pretty reliable so people became trustworthy of headlines they saw. Unlike the newspapers that were once thrown on every doorstep, there is no journalistic integrity driving these stories. Just money.
- Look at the source
Who wrote this? Who published this? If the source is not something like the Washington Post or your local news station, take a closer look because it could be fake news. You’ll be able to recognize most of the credible outlets. When a big story does hit the news, many different outlets will pick it up. If two of your local news stations feature the same story, even when it sounds almost too crazy, you can likely trust that story is true.
- Look for signs of low quality
If you find grammatical errors, headlines in all capitals, or bold claims without much to back it up, that can signal low quality and therefore, fake news. If something important was left out and you can tell someone was paid for your click, these are other signs of low quality. Checking out the About Us section of a site can be another place to check for low quality.
- URLs and Sites that are slightly off
If the URL is odd or if you hover over it and it’s different than what shows up in the article’s content, these could be signs of fake news. “.co” and not “.com” us another way fake news tries to look legitimate.
- Big Emotions
Clickbait and fake news try to play on your emotions to get you to click. If you have a huge emotional response, that could be a sign that you’re being played. If the headline leaves you in suspense and you feel like you just HAVE to know how it ends, it’s likely fake news.
Spotting fake news can prevent you from entering sites that could harbor malware and viruses. Staying away from fake news is yet another way to beef up your security practices.