A Definitive Guide to Identifying Fake News on Social Networks
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
As you surely know, Mexicans used to depend on a single large television media corporation and some newspapers to know the events that were happening in the world. Back then, many journalists firmly believed that they had a sacred duty to provide truthful information to help the public stay informed.
However, as the internet evolved, we began to run into a crisis that nobody could predict: news is always available and comes from various sources. That is not bad, the problem is that many times we do not know if the data is real or not.
Social media helps to share information, but people have begun to confuse legitimate news with notes designed to be click bait (just for you to click). This causes us to sometimes share alarming news that is not real and that causes panic on issues that are not generating conjuncture.
The problem is so big that both Facebook and Google have announced that they will implement tools to eliminate this fake news. However, both platforms cannot fully control all the links that people share on social media. They can only reduce ads and search rankings. That means the responsibility to acknowledge and share only true news rests squarely on you.
Did you ever think that you would become a news expert? Our grandparents depended on the judgment of an editor who determined which news was the most important of the day (which they did not always do well or without interest involved). We live in a society where we have to determine what is trustworthy. This guide will help you detect false news on your social networks, especially in important moments such as those we live today with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
1. Traditional news
In journalism school, our professors emphasize the importance of ethics and it is expected that upon graduation, professionals will behave with a certain level in the newsrooms. Whether we work on television, newspapers, magazines, or websites, true professionals ONLY REPORT VALIDATED FACTS FROM RECOGNIZED SOURCES .
In some cases, we work with cables from agencies such as Associated Press , Reuters , AFP or Notimex . It is possible that we find out about an event through these services, but on many occasions we have to do our own reporting and investigate on our own.
Professional journalists do a lot more than research a few websites. They make calls, interview, go to the scene, cover events, and so on.
That is, they do not write the data they found on a 2005 conspiracy page that is not supported by recognized sources. The Daily Dot has a list of some fake news sites in English.
2. Branded content
Public relations professionals are an important part of journalistic work. This means that insiders constantly receive requests to cover releases, corporate activities, and press releases. Brand-produced content, which can be very useful and high-value when done right, is gaining popularity online.
As long as the information is useful and well reported, the reader can approach this information with confidence.
Unfortunately, there are some brands whose information may contain some errors as they get their data from simple Google searches. In some infamous cases, companies have paid for scientific studies to promote their products. This highlights the importance of checking the source of the information to make sure there are no interests involved.
3. Manufactured news
One of the biggest problems the recent US presidential election faced was the absurd amount of fabricated news that was generated by both parties. All with alarmist and ridiculous headlines similar to those we found in the tabloids of yesteryear. We still do not know how large its effect was on the election results.
These stories use the most sensational headlines possible to get people to share them. With every click, a website makes money. Therefore, the more alarming the head of the note (or click bait ), the more money the website will receive.
These stories have no journalistic foundation, but they sometimes generate more clicks than serious news sites.
How to identify fake news
It may seem difficult, but there are a series of very direct steps that you can follow to identify if a news item on Facebook is false and therefore if you should share it:
1. Check your head: Your first sign is an overly alarmist, ridiculous, or improbable headline. Sometimes they even have glaring spelling or grammar mistakes. Serious newscasts generally review your texts several times before approving them.
2. Analyze the source: although traditional media such as Televisa, El Universal, CNN, BBC, The New York Times, among others, deserve their dose of criticism, they generally employ trained journalists to review data and corroborate sources before publishing.
It is a good place to start. If the note you are reading comes from a site called DespiertaMéxicoHoyYSiempre.blogspot.com - to take a bad example - then you can assume that it is not a reliable source.
3. Read the note: It sounds obvious, but false notes have alarmist headlines to cause you to share the link. The best thing you can do before doing so is to read the note to see if the information is valid, is signed by an author and if it really has to do with the title.
Check that the data, dates, events and even photographs are consistent with what they say they communicate. Even check the publication date so you are not sharing old news.
4. Check other sources: that is, 'google' the note to see if other media bring that information. There is a maxim in journalism that a teacher at my communication school usually says: 'If your mother tells you she loves you, check it with two sources.'
5. Question: If you know someone who is involved in the issue at hand, don't be afraid to ask them. It is better to know directly if the news is true or a ridiculous exaggeration.
I know it seems like a very tedious process, but it is necessary to share relevant, useful and current information. Why do you think measles cases have increased in the United States? Because fake news linking vaccination to autism gained a lot of popularity.
When the information passes these filters, then you can share it. But avoid doing it if you think it may be false, otherwise you can misinform or generate even unnecessary panic.
With information from Martha Elena Violante and John Boitnott.