Tech

How to outsmart fake news in your Facebook feed

Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it accurate. It seems so simple, but if everyone knew that, Facebook and Google wouldn’t have to pull bogus news sites from their advertising algorithms, and people wouldn’t breathlessly share stories that claim Donald Trump is a secret lizard person or Hillary Clinton is an android in a pantsuit.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Fake news is actually straightforward to spot – if you are know-how. Consider this your New Media Literacy Guide.

NOTE: As we put this together, we sought the input of two communications experts: Dr. Melissa Zimdars, an associate professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts whose dynamic list of unreliable news sites has gone viral, and Alexios Mantzarlis, the head of the International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute.

First, know the different types of misleading and false news

  • These are the easiest to debunk and often come from known sham sites designed to look like real news outlets. They may include misleading photographs and headlines that, at first read, sound like they could be real.
  • These are the hardest to debunk because they often contain a kernel of truth: A fact, event, or quote was taken out of context. Look for sensational headlines that aren’t supported by the information in the article.
  • A type of misleading news, this may be an interpretation of an actual news event where the facts are manipulated to fit an agenda.
  • These stories’ shocking or teasing headlines trick you into clicking for more information — which may or may not live up to what was promised.
  • This one is tough because satire doesn’t pretend to be accurate and serves as commentary or entertainment. But if people are not familiar with a satire site, they can share the news as legitimate.

Second, hone your fact-checking skills.

  • Alexios Mantzarlis trains fact-checkers for a living. He says it’s essential to have a “healthy amount of skepticism” and to think, really think, before sharing a piece of news.
  • “If we were a little slower to share and re-tweet content purely based on the headline, we’d go a good way towards combating falsehoods,” he told CNN.
  • Melissa Zimdars points out that even those who spend a lot of time online aren’t immune to fake content.
  • “People think this [thinking] applies only for older people,” she told CNN. “I think even early education should be teaching about communication, media, and the internet. Growing up with the internet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re internet savvy.”

For starters, here are 10 questions you should ask if something looks fake:

Zimdars says sites with strange suffixes like “.co” or “.su,” or hosted by third-party platforms like WordPress, should raise a red flag. Some fake sites, like National Report, have legitimate-sounding, if not overly known, names that can easily trick people on social sites. For instance, several fake reports from abcnews.com.co have gone viral before being debunked, including a June article claiming President Obama signed an order banning assault weapon sales.

Mantzarlis says one of the biggest reasons fake news spreads on Facebook is because people get sucked in by a headline and don’t bother to click through.

Just this week, several dubious organizations circulated a story about Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi. “Pepsi STOCK Plummets After CEO Tells Trump Supporters to ‘Take Their Business Elsewhere’,” trumpeted one such headline.

However, the articles themselves didn’t contain that quote nor evidence that Pepsi’s stock saw a significant drop (it didn’t). Nooyi did make recorded comments about Trump’s election but was never quoted telling his supporters to “take their business elsewhere.”

Gemma Broadhurst
Gemma Broadhurst is a 23-year-old computing student who enjoys extreme ironing, hockey and duck herding. She is kind and entertaining, but can also be very standoffish and a bit evil.She is an Australian Christian. She is currently at college. studying computing. She is allergic to milk. She has a severe phobia of chickens

Leave a Reply