In an era where “fake news” is used to denigrate any story you disagree with, and where misinformation is both a political tool and a hook to sell, scam and scare – the ability to distinguish fact from fiction can feel daunting. Fortunately, if you keep your head calm, you can usually tell whether it is real or fake news.
And we’re here to help with these 5 tips:
Tip 1: Check the news source
Be it Facebook, Twitter or another source: You often come across news that comes from a page that you have never seen before. If this is the case, you should definitely do a little research before you believe the message and / or spread it. You should ask yourself the following questions:
- Did the report appear on a trustworthy site? What other items are there here?
- What does the imprint or the “About Us” section of the page look like?
- Is the author known from other reputable news sites?
- What does the URL look like?
Tip 2: Develop a critical attitude
One of the reasons why folks fall for dubious news is because it sounds credible – sometimes even more credible than the real thing. They often also have a catchy headline that is designed to shock the reader or to appeal to them on an emotional level.
That’s why it’s important to keep a cool head. Instead of responding emotionally, it’s best to try to rationally view the message. Take a closer look at the message and ask yourself the following questions:
- Why was this message written? Do they want to influence me?
- Are they trying to sell me something ?
- Am I being sent to another website?
- Do other news portals report about it?
Tip 3: Follow the sources
A properly researched report will contain many quotes, dates and facts. Be it expert statements, survey evaluations or statistics – serious news will not shy away from linking them.
If the “expert” is a stranger or friend of the author, there are no sources and everything is based on hearsay, you may want to question the text. Is there any evidence that what was mentioned in the article really happened or were facts invented or distorted?
Tip 4: Look for fake pictures
Often dubious news is accompanied by equally dubious pictures. These should underline and prove the “facts” of the article. However, modern image processing programs make it very difficult to distinguish real from fake images; often this is no longer possible. There are still a few things to watch out for:
- See if the shadows that are cast look correct.
- Examine the picture more closely if people or things have strange frayed edges.
- Sometimes a Google Reverse Image Search also helps: Once images have been edited, you can find the originals.
Tip 5: Who else reports on it?
Especially when it comes to big issues such as elections or the current Corona virus, reports abound. Maintaining an overview here and distinguishing serious from untrustworthy news can be difficult. If you find a message that is spreading completely new information that you have never heard of before, it is best to check whether other sites report it. Compare the information with organizations such as Reuters or other source you trust to carefully fact check the information.