The ability to navigate information resources on the web is a necessary skill for a modern person. And when it comes to critical thinking and the Internet, the question of so-called fake news immediately arises. Fake news became the main term of 2017, according to the Collins academic dictionary. Scientists around the world are studying the phenomenon of fake news. Rumor has it that Donald Trump won the presidential election thanks to fake news.
What is fake news, after all, and why does everyone keep talking about it?
Fake news is false information in the media or, in simple terms, misinformation. The paradox of fake news lies precisely in the fact that educated people like our colleagues, friends and relatives believe in false, often absurd news.
For example, they would repost new “sensational” studies that allegedly prove the dangers of vaccinations that are believed to be used to massively implant microchips into us, and other popular horror stories. And fakes news about the novel coronavirus literally became a second pandemic!
Remember how many times we were frightened with various horror stories and absolutely unconfirmed conspiracy theories? There was news claiming that the coronavirus was caused by 5G towers (after which people began to burn the towers in many places).
Then some people claimed that the coronavirus was a man-made virus created by the military on purpose. Some say that COVID-19 can be cured with garlic, lemon and ginger. And another conspiracy theory states that the famous cartoon The Simpsons predicted the emergence of the new virus.
All of this begs the questions, “Who produces all this fake news, and who benefits from it?” Well, it's all about advertising. Fake news is great content that is in demand. You can put ads on website pages containing fake news – from online casinos to porn resources.
Fact-checking or how to spot fake news?
How to identify fake news? To do this, there is a special process called fact-checking. It can be described by the following algorithm:
Step 1. Study the entire piece of news
Never judge the news by its headline. Media article titles can be provocative to grab the attention of the target audience. If you read the entire piece of news carefully, it may turn out to have nothing to do with the catchy headline. If the news is completely absurd, perhaps this is just a satire of prankers.
Step 2. Research the source of the news
How reputable is the news source? Pay attention to the account registration date or look at the URL of the website. Often, fake resources are disguised as popular ones, copying their design and changing just one letter in the address spelling. The same goes for accounts: compare @trueaccount and @trueac0unt.
Step 3. Find the original source of a story
Are there links to original sources of information? Follow the links in this article. Who originally reported this event – officials, reputable organizations, or dubious unnamed witnesses?
Step 4. Check the author
Does this article even have an author? What other articles did they write? Is there any information about them on the Internet? What did they write about before?
Step 5: Think about possible bias and self-interest
Can you say that the text is emotionally rich? Do not forget that excessive emotionality in the news is the first sign of fake or propaganda. Never forget your own bias. Critical thinking starts with self-reflection.
Step 6. Contact the experts
Look for comments from experts in the field if needed. Besides, there are many websites that will help you quickly spot fake news:
Fact-checking is not a system that works 100% accurately. People tend to be wrong. Just remember that the main principle of verification and fact-checking is to check something in several independent sources.