The Internet and social media have transformed the news landscape. Ordinary people can now easily create, post and share content in the online space which can go viral in mere minutes. This has been liberating and empowering, but it has also brought many serious problems and threats such as Fake News which is news made up of disinformation and misinformation.
Disinformation refers to false information deliberately created to cause harm, deceive people and even support political agendas and candidates, while misinformation speaks to information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm or mischief. Worryingly, fake news can also contain fragments of real information making it increasingly difficult for people to distinguish between fake news, internet gossip and reliable sources of information. This has led to people being scammed, manipulated, deceived, inconvenienced and even having their safety and security compromised.
How to Detect Fake News
- Check the source - Ask yourself if the information (text, photo, video) is from a reputable and trustworthy source? Can this news be found elsewhere on the Internet on websites you know and trust, such as the traditional news media?
- Verification - Can you tell if the information is really from the person or organisation from which it appears? It is important to check the domain name of every e-mail address and website.
- Evidence - Is there any data or evidence to support the claims being made in the information you have encountered? If there is nothing to support the information, you may be viewing fake news. However, be mindful that sometimes numbers and details are included to give the information credibility and mislead people.
- Currency - Is the information current or is it old and recycled? How is it presented? Sometimes, dated information is reshared and presented as current events or new developments creating confusion. Pay close attention to or try to ascertain when the content you are viewing was originally created.
Combatting Fake News
- Avoid knowingly liking, commenting on and sharing posts or links with fake news. More interaction will increase the likelihood of the post appearing in the news feed of other users and may also give it credibility.
- If you know the information to be false, you can notify the person who has shared it and it may also be advisable to flag or report it.
- You can counter the fake news by sharing the correct information.