PETALING JAYA, April 6 — The term fake news has become somewhat ubiquitous these days.
But in the age of information overload, news has never been so abundant, nor has it been easier to disseminate, thanks to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
But how do you know if what you have clicked on is real or false?
A recent study conducted by MIT researchers which was published by the Washington Post revealed that false news travels quicker, farther and deeper than the truth.
Whether it is an out-of-this-world story that has gone viral or a serious news piece on the upcoming general election, here are five easy ways to help distinguish fake news from real news.
Knowledge is power
The more you know, that is by reading a wide range of articles from varied sources, the more you are able to make a distinction between writing that is credible and writing that goes out of its way to be sensationalist. Be sure it’s not a satirical site such as The Onion or Clickhole.
Being media literate — which involves knowing the type of angle a publication tends to lean towards and the effect a piece of news has on public opinion — massively influences the likelihood of a person buying into conspiracy theories, explains Huffington Post.
Don’t rely on headlines
An attention-grabbing headline is hard to say no to when it comes to shareability but it’s one of the oldest tricks in the books to get people to click on an article.
Read beyond the headline before deciding to pass it along to friends. Keep in mind that an article’s headline doesn’t always tell the full story, advises FactCheck.org a non-profit consumer advocate that monitor factual accuracy in US politics.
Check the publisher’s credibility
A Harvard Summer School guide urges students to read a publication’s “About Us” section that can give readers an idea about the publisher, its mission statement and its political leanings.
It’s most likely fake if trustworthy news sites aren’t carrying the story. Compare and contrast to make an informed decision.
Who is the source?
Did the content show up on your social media feed? Was it promoted on a portal famed for click bait? Like a rumour, tracking the origins of a story can help verify if it’s authentic. Also check if the copy is riddled with mistakes — if it is, it’s most likely a hoax.
If it’s a serious or complicated issue, there should be sufficient quotes and contributing sources to help support the argument the story is presenting.
Put your ego aside
We live in a world where pressing issues such as climate change were labelled as fake news and hoax sites were treated as the gospel truth during the US presidential campaign that ultimately helped Donald Trump win the election.
Our biases make it easier to buy into news that plays up on our anxieties and on the flipside, disregard information that doesn’t.
Don’t believe everything you read by actively thinking about the story you are reading.