We all have that friend on Facebook that loves to share links to all sorts of widely inaccurate articles. Or maybe you’re that person. Maybe you enjoy sharing obviously wrong news stories so all your friends have to see it. In that case, you should probably stop. Stop that shit right now.
Checking to see whether an article is truthful or not really doesn’t take much effort. One good rule of thumb is to double-check to see if a story you’re reading is being reported on by other, respected outlets. If you’ve never heard of the site you’re on before and none of the bigger sites are reporting on what you’re reading, beware. In cases like that, there’s a pretty good chance whatever you’re reading isn’t true. This is especially true if what you’re reading seems like it’s a big deal. Big deals get picked up by CNN, Fox, and the Times, so check there too.
Fake news has become such a real problem that Facebook currently has a campaign going trying to educate people on how to spot it. They have a list of tips that are meant to help people be able to identify fake news.
What’s sad about Facebook’s release of these tips is that we really shouldn’t need them. But we do, we do need them because people are stupid af. It really doesn’t take much intelligence to discern between fake news and the real stories. It may take an extra second or two, but chill out. Spending a few extra seconds before sharing will not kill you.
Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.