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The Battle Against Fake News Phenomenon

Straight Talk
By Nimfa Estrellado

There are, of course, a number of ways to find out about what is taking place in the world, and this is why it is no longer necessary to look towards the mainstream media. Someone can now find out about what is taking place by looking towards the alternative media.

Fake news is not a recent phenomenon and has existed for a long time but its impact has become more widespread with the spread of the internet and social media. The fake news phenomenon has been aided by the rapid expansion of the digital medium and its capacity to deliver any message across the globe at lightening fast speed. It leads to a situation where such fake news can’t be checked, verified or challenged before it is made available worldwide.

What is fake news? Ever since ancient times, rulers have indulged in slanting and planting news to serve their interests. But giving a slant to a news to suit one’s beliefs or ideology cannot be called fake news. Fake news can be described as a completely fabricated story without any basis that has been floated by vested interests to serve their own purpose.

We are also to blame! Today with the advent of the internet everyone from an individual to media to government have a share in the spread of fake news even though their motives to do so may vary from increasing political clout, to achieving financial goals or any personal agenda. But how to know whether the news is genuine or fake?

In sifting for fake news, look at the origins of the news. If it is carried by a legitimate source of news chances are that it will not be fake but if it has originated from sources you have not heard of or are known to be of dubious nature then you must take such news with a pinch of salt and verify it from a known authentic source before you start believing it. The most obvious solution for checking the spread of fake news is human intervention. Technology by itself cannot sift and segregate fake news. Realizing this dimension Facebook has started such a practice and has enlisted International Fact Checking Network to look into that news that users have flagged as deliberate fakes.

Stopping the spread of fake news, you yourself must start to take responsibility of what you share. Do not share anything on the social media without going into the detail of the story or the photograph. Check the source of the story or the photo you wish to circulate and only if they come from some reputable sources should you share them.

Also start the practice of pointing any fake news to its sender. Maybe they do not know the true facts and forwarded it thinking it to be true and you could help them stop the spread of such news.

The growth of the internet and social media has made it very easy for fake news stories to proliferate. Whereas some sites are intentional in writing false, but humorous stories, there are some sites that work hard to pass themselves as real and others only see to peddle salacious false tales just to drive traffic and enjoy ad revenue to the sites. Social media on the other hand makes it very easy for people to spread the misinformation which at the end of the day brings about lots of confusion. It is important to try and verify how true a story is before sharing. Below are a few pointers that should raise an eyebrow that the story you are about to share is fake to save you the embarrassment when the truth comes out.

1. Missing links, references, citations and author. One of the most obvious red flag when it comes to fake news is missing links and references to help you validate the information shared. Popular sites may miss references and citations, but most other sites will have them. You may also find that the name of the author is the story is missing or if it exists, you can’t find anything credible about the author when you do a search on them.

2. The news source has a reputation of shadiness

Where you get news stories should guide you on whether they are true or likely to be fake. The reputation the source of news has can say a lot about its credibility. If a source is known to constantly spread fake news, then it is highly likely that the interesting story you are about to share is fake. Most news stories from such sites or sources will seem just as incredulous when you take a look at them.

3. No other site or news source carries a similar story. If you can’t seem to find anything similar from reputable new sites and websites even though the story seems to be hot news, then something is definitely wrong. Failure in finding anything similar should tell you that the author never did any research or is simply sharing their personal opinion on a given topic and not factual news.

4. Grammatical and spelling worries. Reputable news sources take their time to go through the texts and to actually edit as appropriate before posting them. They actually have proofreaders whose work is to correct all grammatical and spelling errors present. An author who is hastily posting information will not have the time to go through the text over and over to make such corrections. If you keep noticing errors as you go through the text, you are most probably dealing with a fake story.

5. Mismatch between headline and article content

The headline persuades you to believe before you even read and also tells you what the story is about. Fabricated headlines are there to attract attention, but it is best to read through the content before believing. Most fake stories will have mismatching details between headline and the content you actually get. Viral fake news is usually used to damage a person or companies reputation and make money so before buying into stories online or otherwise it is always better to find out what the opposing parties would have to gain by creating fake information.

By uploading tools and using search engines to find out more information before deciding whether to share information or not, you could stop the fake news from being spread in its tracks. Be constructive in the way you share information and only share what you know to be true not what grabs your attention. If everyone takes this approach fake news could be a thing of the past.

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