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How to spot fake news

Fake news — it, and the phrase, seems to be everywhere. So, you may be wondering, “Is it showing up on my feed?” It’s very possible. Yes, social media sites are trying to minimize the circulation of misinformation. (Facebook recently released a short film called “Facing Facts” about how it’s trying to reduce fake news.) But it’s still important to know how to spot it so you’re not helping to spread it.

Why we fall for fake news

Part of it, according to scientists, is that we are on “information overload” and have “limited attention spans.” That makes us not properly vet the information we read. Another factor is confirmation bias. We’re more likely to accept information that confirms what we believe while we dismiss information that does not. So that article you stumble across that aligns with your deeply held views, well, your first reaction isn’t to be impartial. Instead, you’ll quickly share, possibly with a caption about how you were right all along.

 

But don’t fear, you’ve got the best intentions, and it’s not too late to break the cycle. Here’s what to keep in mind.

Read more than the headline

This is where it starts. Four in 10 people don’t delve into a subject deeper than the headline, according to the American Press Institute. And many stories shared on social media are done so without people clicking on the link. But no matter the source, a headline is never going to give you all the important information. So, don’t stop there

Consider the source

Not all publications are created equal. On the internet, anyone, anywhere can share their thoughts. Hint: those thoughts don’t have to be accurate. That’s why checking the credibility of the source is important.

 

First, look at the domain name. Be wary of unusual ones like “.com.co.” It’s also worth checking out the source’s “About Us” section. This will tell you about the site’s purpose. Maybe it publishes satirical information or information presented from a slanted viewpoint. While you’re at it, check out the author. What does their bio say? Has he or she published anything else? Are they writing for an obscure site? Do they have professional contact information? Be wary of red flags that might pop up.

Pay attention to quality

Spelling errors, words in all caps, and dramatic punctuation should tip you off. Reputable organizations have proofreading and editing standards. Even more relaxed publications and blogs, which might use a laid-back tone, have some sort of standards that they should communicate with their readers and use with consistency.

Verify it

Visit a third-party fact-checking site like Snopes or Politifact. It’s also worth utilizing Botcheck.me, which checks your Twitter for bots. And as previously mentioned, Facebook is trying to up its game with fake news prevention, so there’s an option when you log into Facebook to see if you’ve liked or followed a page created by the organization behind the Russian bots. Plus, there’s more information about their recent updates here.

 

Yes, all these steps will take you a little bit of additional time (and we know you don’t have much of it.) But trust us, it’s worth it. Society will thank you.