(RepublicanDaily.org) – The internet has made it easier to access a wide range of news sources than it’s ever been before. In theory, we should all be the most knowledgeable, well-informed people in human history. Be honest, though; does that seem right to you?
In addition to the big traditional news agencies, we can now get up-to-date stories from thousands of independent sites or from social media. The problem is a lot of the news that’s floating around, especially online, is fake. It just isn’t true – and most people aren’t great at spotting that.
Spotting Those Fakes
Luckily, if you know what to look for it’s pretty easy to identify fake news stories.
- First, check where the story is from. If it’s Reuters or Associated Press, the chances are it’s pretty close to the truth. The major networks, and foreign media like the BBC or Agence France-Presse, are also fairly (but not definitely) reliable. If you’ve never heard of the news site, however, be wary.
- Does the story make sense? If there’s something about it that just sounds wrong, it probably is. Check with more reliable sources before making your mind up.
- If you see a story in email or social media, but the link to the original story doesn’t work, it’s likely to be fake. A common issue on social media is people forwarding stories that are years old. How often do you check the date on the article you just read?
- Look at the spelling and grammar. If there are a lot of mistakes, that shows a lack of professionalism – and it could extend to poor fact-checking or even deliberately pushing an agenda.
- Beware provocative headlines. If the headline and first sentence of a story make your blood boil, there’s a good chance they were deliberately written to do that. Fake news writers use emotion to make an end-run around your powers of critical thinking.
Being tricked into believing fake news can have consequences. Unless you know you can trust the source, be skeptical of any news you read – especially if it seems too good, or bad, to be true. There’s a lot of dishonest journalism out there, but if you know what it looks like you can spot it easily.
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