During the Wild West days of the internet in the 90s, nobody trusted online content that could not be independently verified. Professors laughed at papers that used a website as a reference. Fast forward to today, that skepticism is largely gone. Thousands of people every day share stories about dodgy deaths, miracle cures, and unbelievable events.
We can point to three reasons for the change in people’s perception. First, reputable brands have built trustworthy online properties. Unfortunately, because people can trust most content sites out there, some people seem to think it applies to all websites, which really shouldn’t be the case.
Next, social media enables fake news to be reported by trustworthy people. After all, there’s no reason to disbelieve your dad’s retweet. Lastly, the pressure on known news brands for a scoop is so overwhelming that sometimes, reports are published even if the source is sketchy.
In a post on his Facebook account, ABS-CBN reporter Aton Araullo raised the need for discernment when reading online content. “The proliferation of fake news on the internet has become an epidemic, and anyone can fall victim. We have to take extra precaution before spreading these things, as responsible social media users,” he wrote.
And Araullo’s right. Fake news dumbs society down. They manipulate people into wrong assumptions about personalities, places, and policies which create misunderstanding and panic. Knowing how to spot fake news sites is half the battle and here are five ways you can do that.
Check the Source
When a story triggers skepticism by being too good or funny to be true, research where it came from. Many times, it will come from a known satire or fake news sites such as The Onion or The Adobo Chronicles. Check their About Us page and they will happily report that their posts are meant to be taken in jest.
Scrutinize Other Content
Sometimes, fake news sites are not nice enough to proclaim their charade with a disclaimer. To discover their intentions, check their content. If the other articles are probably fake, satirical, or comical, then you know it’s not worth taking seriously.
Unleash Your Inner Grammar Nazi on the Domain Name
Often used in identity theft, fakes sometimes try to pass off the real thing. The original website’s design has been copied and people assume that the content is true. To discover their deception, be mindful of the domain name because it can’t be easily spoofed. For example, www.inquirer.net is not the same as, for example, www.incquirer.net. Also, fake news sites have articles written in terrible grammar. That’s a dead giveaway.
Fake stories are usually one of a kind. Google the story and find if other more trustworthy sites are carrying it. It’s even possible to take it up another step by entering the story into the search engine. Sometimes, the original story or its variations come up.
Trace the Original
Some fake stories find their way into reputable sites too. It’s not even that hard. Superficial studies or even fake reports can easily feature in scientific journals, for example, and then be referred to actual news organizations as breaking stories. Fortunately, ordinary individuals can still trace the original source to determine its validity.
Because of the evolving nature of websites that deliver news content, concerned social media users need to be skeptical. Before sharing anything, do a little research. It’s for everyone’s benefit.