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How to spot fake news

Fake news can appear as falsified news anywhere there could be readers. Your social media, your favourite blog, even a newspaper could be fabricating content to attract or deceive readers. Their goal is generally to profit from ad revenue and clicks.

It’s fabricated media content designed to fool you. It goes viral through click-bait style titles and gets rapidly shared through the internet.

In light of the current situation, we’ve prepared a checklist highlighting how you can spot fake news.

Why fake news is a problem

Social media giants, like Facebook and Twitter, are designed to share a high volume of information, rapidly. They also allow for a fair share of advertising. These are sponsored content that can be located virtually anywhere on your feed.

These ads will link back to spoofed sites, that often try to sell you something completely unrelated. The virtually unfiltered ad space makes social media the ideal grounds for fake news to spread.

Now that you know a bit more about fake news, let’s dive into a few things you should consider when assessing any article.

1. Who
Who wrote the article? Does the posting have an author byline (a phrase about the author, usually near, or at, the bottom of the article)? If it does, dig a little deeper. Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to verify journalists, they post their qualifications (on LinkedIn) and other articles through these channels. Here you’ll want to see if they work for a credible employer, like the New York Times. Are their other articles well-researched?

If the page posts anonymous content, check their ‘About Us’ tab. Almost every website has a section like this at the top or bottom of their website. It will give you the company’s objectives and mission, which will help you decide if this is a source you can trust.
2. How
How can fake news be detected? I recently received a forwarded an email, purporting to be from the Royal Brisbane Hospital, giving advice on how to detect and prevent COVID19. It seemed convincing but there was no name ascribed to it. I copy and pasted the text into Google and was led to a government website that proved it was fake: https://metronorth.health.qld.gov.au/news/fake-email-covid-19

With COVID19 in particular, it’s vital you only get your information from reliable sources such as:

3. What
What does the actual article talk about? Does it match with the heading and title you clicked for? Often, titles are designed to get the user in the door and the body of the text is about something unrelated or misleading. Within the first 100-200 words of the article, you should have an understanding of what you’re about to read. If things don’t feel like they’re adding up, they likely aren’t.

4. When
When was the article posted? If it’s an older article being reshared through your circles some of the content may have already been disproven. Has the writer edited or republished the article recently because of current events? Searching key information from the article on Google could lead you to some other news sources that could verify the articles information.

5. Where
Does the article have a weird URL? If the web address doesn’t line up with the company’s standard website, something fishy is going on. Even if the page looks well put together they could still post fake news. You can also check where the sources take you. Before clicking the link and risking anything malicious, just hover over the link and check the bottom left of your browser to see where the link is intending to take you.

6. Why
Why was this article written? Is it to be informative or do you sense a hidden agenda? If the article reads more like an infomercial than a news article you have every right to be sceptical. Try verifying the information online, check with your favourite news channels and reliable blogs.

Fake news is distributed with the intention of drawing your attention away from the truth. Ask yourself, who does this benefit? Think twice, being a critical reader can help keep you in the know.
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