Do you use Facebook? Do you get a lot of new stories in your Facebook Feed? Can you tell which stories are true and which are fake?
In the wake of the last election, there was a lot of talk of Fake News — news stories that are false but look like they come from a legitimate source. The trouble is there are so many news sources these days – cable news channels, newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites, and more. It’s hard to know how legit the stories are and whether their facts are accurate.
Facebook understands a lot of Fake News comes through their social media platform and have added a new feature to help you tell the difference between real and fake news. Earlier this year, Facebook, started adding an “About This Article” icon to every news story. Simply click on the icon to reveal information about the article including:
- Name and location of the publisher – Do you recognize the publisher? If the publisher is not a reputable news outlet, think twice about believing what’s in the article.
- Link to follow the publisher’s Facebook page – Does the publisher have a Facebook page? Since most legit publishers should be on Facebook, this is one quick indicator of how well-established a publisher is.
- Link to related articles for additional reading on the topic – Are other publishers reporting the same (or similar) news? If not, you might think twice about whether this is legit news.
- Links to other articles by that publication – How many other articles have been published by this publisher and do other articles have the same general feel? Do all of their stories seem to be “breaking news” that nobody else seems to find?
- Map showing where the article has been shared – How widely has it been shared? The wider the area that the article has reached, the more likely its credibility due to its traction. Compare with other stories from common sources to see the difference.
- Total number of people who have shared this article – The number of people who have shared this article can be an indicator of a story’s legitimacy as well. The more people share it, likely the more credible the story. Again, compare multiple stories from various sources to see the difference.
Name and profile pictures of your Facebook friends who have shared the article – If people you know and trust have shared the story, that might bring it more credibility. By the same token, if only those friends who tend to “share before checking” have shared the story, you might want to check into it more.
Spotting Fake News Outside Facebook
The above tactics are great for stories in Facebook but what about news websites, blogs, and other articles? Here are some general things you can do to spot Fake News:
- Check the domain name – Does the URL have any unusual or extra characters that make it look similar to a reputable news source while still being different? (e.g. www.nbcnews.com.cn)
- Check the story on hoax websites – Go to a good hoax-busing website like Snopes (www.snopes.com) and type in the title or just some keywords in the search box and see what Snopes says. Snopes will report whether it is true, false, or somewhere in between.
- Check out other news outlets – Are other news outlets reporting the same story with the same facts? Do those that are reporting the story have anything in common? (common political/social view or agenda)
- Check for sources – Does the article attribute its story or facts to any source? Is the source one that you can trust and believe?
- Research the author – Has the author published other articles? What are they like? If the article does not list an author (or one without other articles) you might think twice about believing it!
- Trust your gut – Lastly, above all else, trust your gut. Usually things that are fake give you an odd feeling that they are fake. Either they come from a weird source or sound too unbelievable or nobody else is reporting the story — something makes you think twice. Maybe trust that intuition!
This article was written by Ben Gumz, from TCC. Portions of “Facebook Works to Combat Fake News” in Website Compass magazine were used in this article.