By Elizabeth White
The rise of Donald Trump has brought the idea of fake news to the forefront.
“Analysis by BuzzFeed found that fake news stories drew more shares and engagement during the final three months of the campaign than reports from (for example) The New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN,” according to The Guardian.
Fake news is defined as “false information or propaganda published under the guise of being authentic news,” according to Forrest Stroud at Webopedia.
And “fake news” was Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016.
But the scary part is that many people cannot actually tell the difference between real news and fake news.
Stanford’s Graduate School of Education recently did a study that looked at more than 7,800 responses from middle school through college students from 12 states “on their ability to assess information sources.”
“Researchers were ‘shocked’ by students’ ‘stunning and dismaying consistency’ to evaluate information at even as basic a level as distinguishing advertisements from articles,” according to The Guardian.
Facebook will soon release a feature that flags news stories that are questionable with an alert that says “Disrupted by 3rd party fact-checkers”, according to The Guardian.
Google Chrome and Slate have also released plugins that warn browsers of unreliable information.
But Internet users must also
evaluate information themselves before clicking the ‘share’ button and believing everything they read to be true.
When reading anything on the Internet, no matter the subject, one of the first questions readers should ask themselves is “is this a reliable source?” The website or organization that posts the article is key to understanding whether or not the information is true and accurate.
Melissa Zimdars, a media Melissa Zimdars, a media fake or highly misleading stories – meaning they intentionally published or promoted unverified information as though it’s legitimate news.
At first glance, one website in particular jumps out, which is Abcnews.com.co.
The familiar name might prompt people to take the website’s content as true, but the website is actually fake.
“Watch out for websites that end in ‘.com.co’ as they are often fake versions of real news sources,” Zimdars warns.
Another website on the list is White House News. At first glance, readers might believe that this is the president’s website, but it is fake. It is not to be confused with the actual White House’s website, which is whitehouse.gov.
If a reader is skeptical about the source, look at the “About Us” tab on the website and Google the source. Question any organization that is not a “major” news source.
Another key to spotting fake news is the coverage of the event. If major news outlets aren’t reporting on it, take the information with a grain of salt as it may be false, said Zimdars.
In addition, if a news article does not contain an author, this is another red flag.
“Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification,” Zimdars said. It’s also important to collect information from multiple sources about an event in order to get a clearer and more in-depth view.
“It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames,” Zimdars said.
If all else fails, be skeptical. Do your research, take nothing at face value and question all information from the Internet. Do not blindly accept anything to be true.