fake news or real news

Fake news or real news?

Photoshopped image or real?

Real threat or fake?

Fake offer or real deal?

Real warning email or phishing scam?

We all are faced with trying to identify what is real or fake in the online world. While I think the internet is amazing, it is also still very much a wild west atmosphere and it is very easy for people to put out fake information. People have gotten very good at faking these things now also which makes it even harder to decipher what is fake and what is real.

It is up to YOU to know.

Yes, this requires a little more effort on your part but it is so important to not just take things at face value. As humans we react on an emotional level immediately to things we see or read online. We are quick to like and share without checking facts because of our gut reaction. That reaction could be joy, angry, fear, excitement or a plethora of other human emotions.

Don’t feel stupid.

I think all of us, including me, have been fooled at some time or another online. The people putting out the fake stuff originally can be really good at what they are doing, not all of them, but a big enough portion of them are good at what they do. One that stands out for me was about tampons of all things and how there was supposedly asbestos in some of them – sounds stupid to me now, but at the time I first read it I fell for it.

Today though the stakes are even higher. We are all learning how the Russians tried to influence our last major election via social media. Not just the Russians, but also the people behind the political parties in our own country and those, though not official related to political parties, who want to push a particular party or agenda. This means we all need to take due diligence in verifying these things, political or not, before we share.

Tips for spotting fakes

  • It asks you to send or share with friends
    This may sound benign, but one of the biggest things in fake stuff is that they ask you to take an action like sharing, forwarding, or even liking an item. This should be a giant red flag for you to check it out first.
  • It threatens imminent danger
    More red flags if the information says something is happening, or about to happen, now! I see this a lot with fake laws and bills.
  • Act now!
    Again, this is the immediacy threat. The item will encourage you to act immediately so you do not miss out on something.
  • Tugging at your heartstrings
    This is another emotion that the fake things use to get you to react. Not all things are fake that do this but it is an emotion they play on to help further their cause/scam.
  • Apply the CRAAP Test
    Big thanks to Lee who shared this with me. The CRAAP test is a great set of questions you should ask yourself when evaluating what is real when you  are evaluating information. There is also a link to download a PDF document of the CRAAP test which I encourage everyone to do and post it near your computer to remind yourself of what questions you should ask yourself.

Where to check if it is fake or real

  • Snopes.com
    This has been one of my go to places to check things for years and years.
  • Search Engines
    Use Google, Bing, or whatever search engine you prefer. Type in a few key words or phrase plus a word like scam, fake or hoax. The major search engines are now starting to work harder at presenting factual news, but you still have to do your own due diligence when using them.
  • FactCheck.org
    For anything political you can research here. They are a nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer advocate for voters.
  • NPR
    NPR has evolved from a secondary to an essential news source, with dozens of bureaus around the world and the nation. Drawing on more than 340 news staff (reporters, correspondents, newscasters, editors, producers hosts and bloggers) in the United States and abroad — from Washington, D.C., and New York City, to Beijing and Dakar, we have the capacity to stay on top of breaking news, follow the most critical stories of the day and track complex issues over the long term.
  • Poynter
    This is the home of the International Fact-Checking Network. They are working on upholding the highest standards in journalism.
  • Duke Reporter’s Lab
    The Reporters’ Lab explores new forms of journalism, including fact-checking, which is growing around the world, empowering democracies and holding governments accountable, and structured journalism, which creates new forms of storytelling and beat reporting.
  • AllSides
    Unlike regular news services, AllSides exposes bias and provides multiple angles on the same story so you can quickly get the full picture, not just one slant.

This is just a small sampling of places you can check facts and increase your knowledge. It really is so important to not just rely on any one single news source. I think it is equally important that if you are someone who watches news channels to not just focus on one, but to look at multiple channels, including those who you think you generally disagree with the talking heads. For example, I tend to watch MSNBC quite a lot, but I do try to watch a bit of Fox News on occasion as well for a different perspective. Yes, it is hard to do, but really try to watch (or read) and take in others opinions.

What are your go to news feeds, shows, papers, blogs, etc.?