Fake news is nothing new. Despite its rise to fame over the last couple of years, the phenomenon has been around since humans have been able to relay information, from spoken word to the first newspaper and now the internet.
Notwithstanding this happening, it is nothing to be afraid of when one is armed with the right tools and information to spot fake news from miles away.
In this article, we will discuss 5 very simple steps to identify if a news item making waves on your social media timeline is true or otherwise.
TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT THE URL
URL refers to the uniform resource locator where the news item is. The URL is an address to the server where the information you are looking at is stored.
This is often a revealing sign of a website that shares fake news, as some of these entities try to mimic the URL, Logo, and Design of a legitimate news website to trick readers. A simple look at the URL to start with will go a long way to prevent you from sharing further a fake story.
Most times the TLD (top-level domain) is different from the original site. So instead of .com, the fake news may be .co, .org, .net, .edu, .tv and others. Another form they take is to add another TLD to the original one, making it two TLDs. Eg www.bbc.com becomes www.bbc.com.co
If you are reading an article on a website you have never come across, take a look at the website’s “Contact” and “About Us” pages. If the site is meant to be satirical, these pages will typically have a disclaimer. If it meant to be anything part from sharing true stories, it will be mentioned under a Disclaimer heading in About Us or Contact.
A website like https://worldnewsdailyreport.com/ appears genuine but in their Disclaimer page, they clearly state that: “WNDR assumes, however, all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.”
ARE OTHERS NEWS SITES REPORTING THE STORY?
Chances are if the majority of other news sites are reporting on the same story, it’s at least partially true. Read multiple stories on the same subject to see what sources are being used and where the differences lie.
A recent example is a story that purported that the statement that Ghana has recorded its first 2 cases of the coronavirus where false. This story was carried by a few unpopular news portals before CiTi News came to set the records straight as their logo was on the video that was going around.
TAKE NOTICE OF MESSY WRITING AND SPELLING MISTAKES
Be skeptical of an abundance of the spelling or grammatical errors, or if the writer uses a lot of upper cases in an unorderly manner.
Most credible news sources have copy editors that will check for these mistakes before publication, and will also have rules restricting writers from using features like caps lock for the sake of professionalism.
QUOTES OR LACK OF IT
A sure sign of credible journalism is the presence of quotes. This adds a layer of integrity, allowing readers to do some research on the individual quoted and decide if they are a reliable source of information.
Absence of quotes is usually a sign of an opinion piece, either published as a blog post or a column, or of fake news.
Know that using just one of the methods above is not a valid way of identifying whether or not a website is genuine. It works best when the methods are used together.
As readers, it is our job to verify any information before we share it with our colleagues.