My Perspective: How to Spot Fake News

Monday, November 20, 2017 || By Michael Romain || OPINION || @maywoodnews 

Late last month, a Facebook post created by someone through a site called react365.com, which allows people to create fake news articles in order to prank their friends, claimed that “Local landmark and Proviso Township High School” was permanently closing. The creator of the post cited Village Free Press as a reference. The post went viral and was shared countless times.

Of course, it wasn’t true. That’s not what’s surprising about this episode. What is surprising and alarming is that so many people questioned the veracity of the post to the point that they shared it, invoking their friends to ‘fact check’ whether or not the claim was true. Anyone who regularly reads credible news would likely have found this prank article false on its face.

One glance at a) the headline, b) the website from which the post came and/or c) the writing should’ve raised some red flags almost immediately.

That this information was able to spread so far and so wide, with so many people giving the information the benefit of the doubt, is terrifying.

I’ve been thinking about this incident quite a bit recently. I think the lack of critical thinking skills among social media users is a grave threat to democracy. But I won’t get up on a soapbox regarding this. I think a better use of this space is to simply post Facebook’s “Tips to Spot False News.”

A note from Facebook: We want to stop the spread of false news on Facebook. Learn more about the work we’re doing. As we work to limit the spread, here are some tips on what to look out for:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  5. 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.
  6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

If you see a story in News Feed that you believe is false, you can report it to Facebook.

  • Click next to the post you’d like to mark as false
  • Click Report post
  • Click It’s a false news story
  • Click Mark this post as false news VFP 

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