Fact or Fake News – Can You Spot The Difference? You might think it easy but it’s proving not to be the case.
It used to be that we looked, almost exclusively, to newspapers, TV or the radio to get the latest factual news updates before the world wide web and the internet exploded into what we see today. Those news items would be checked out, people interviewed, facts cross referenced before anything was published or communicated which still happens with the likes of the BBC, SKY News, and the major newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Times etc. Don’t get me wrong, even back in the days of newspapers, TV and radio the reporters might still get the facts wrong but as there were less people reporting on something we probably got the salient facts rather than speculation or hearsay.
One of my favourite adverts for reporting the news is this clip which shows how perspective can sometimes be distorted and wrongly presented:
And this clip by The Guardian which won a Cannes Lion Award for the advert shown in 2012. It shows how people get behind the news and create their own stories:
In today’s world of online social media we are often bombarded by status updates, people’s viewpoints and comments alongside the official news agencies facts. So how can we sort out the real facts from our friends and connections thoughts and viewpoints?
We’re going to explore how you can work out the difference between fact and fake news.
What Is Fake News?
Fake news is the misinformation shared through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok etc. It’s when there’s a deliberate attempt to mislead, lie or present false and inaccurate stories in front of social media viewers.
It’s sometimes difficult to work out the truth as fake news can often look and sound realistic as the producers mimic real news media.
The main objective of fake news on social media is usually to make money from advertising on a fake news website, to damage a person’s reputation or business, or to illicit fear or unrest.
How might seeing fake news make you feel?
The information we see on social media can help to shape our views, beliefs and opinions of the world we live in. But not everything we see, hear or read is fact.
Without taking a moment to ask ourselves “is what I’m seeing real?” we can very quickly and easily be fooled into thinking something we’ve read or viewed on social media is fact.
Have you ever seen a post on social media and before checking the authenticity and credibility of the content, you’ve shared it with your friends and family? Then had it pointed out to you that the information you’ve shared it incorrect.
How did you feel? Irritated that you’d been duped, annoyed maybe, even angry that someone had blatantly misled you.
There’s a couple of simple things you can do that might help you to identify what you’re reading to check if it is real or fake news on social media.
- Does the headline sound real and plausible?
- Does the photo or video look right or does it seem altered or enhanced in some way?
- Is the website link one you’re familiar with or is it a website you’ve never heard of before?
- Have you seen others posting about this information too?
Fact or Fake – Examples Of Social Media Content & Links
We’re going to share with you a few examples of posts on social media. See what you think. Are they Fact or Fake? See the bottom of this blog post for the answers.
Fact or Fake Example Number 1
Garlic Cures COVID-19
Headline: Good news: Wuhan’s coronavirus can be cured by one bowl of freshly boiled garlic water
“Old Chinese doctor has proven it’s efficacy. Many patients has also proven this to be effective. Eight (8) cloves of chopped garlics add seven (7)cups of water and bring to boil., Eat and drink the boiled garlic water, overnight improvement and healing. Glad to share this.
Please pass on.”
Fact or Fake Example Number 2
Are the ‘Pink Lakes’ of Australia Real?
Headline: No way this is really that pink!
Melissa Estrada shared photos of a pink lake in Australia shot from the skies above. The post had over 1.6k Facebook reactions (like, love, wow etc) and over 254 comments. But was it real or was it fiction.
Shared via Facebook
Fact or Fake Example Number 3
WhatsApp settings update
Headline: WhatsApp updated your settings last night!!!
“Liverpool Crimewatch have advised your WhatsApp settings have changed overnight…
Mine definitely had…
WhatsApp has changed its group settings to include “everyone” by default so people you don’t know can add you to a group without your knowing. These people may include scam messages, loan sharks, etc. You can change its default settings as follows:
- Go to WhatsApp:
- Go into Settings
- Go to Account
- Go to Privacy
- Go to Groups
- Change from (Everyone) to (My Contacts)
This is true. I have checked mine & all settings had been changed.”
Shared via WhatsApp and Facebook
Fact or Fake Example Number 4:
Magnets in the Vaccines – #magnetchallenge
Headline: Covid Vaccines: Is your jab magnetic
Many people have been sharing videos on social media of themselves sticking metal objects to their arms claiming that the vaccine must have something magnetic, like a microchip in the jab. People are including #magnetchallenge in the video posts on social media.
But are the real?
Shared via Twitter, Instagram and TikTok
Where To Check And Validate The News On Social Media
There are many places to help you when you’re not quite sure what you’re reading is true. If you’re unsure, always check before sharing content with others on social media. It’s especially best to check at the moment with the facts or hearsay around COVID and the guidelines as these change all the time.
Can you find evidence on a reputable website such as:
- BBC News – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news
- Government UK website – https://www.gov.uk/
- NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/
- World Health Organisation – https://www.who.int/
There’s also fact checker tools to help you:-
- Snopes – https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/
- Google Fact Check Explorer – https://toolbox.google.com/factcheck/explorer
- Poynter’s Coronavirus Disinformation Database – https://www.poynter.org/ifcn-covid-19-misinformation/
NewsGuard Google Chrome Extension – https://www.newsguardtech.com/
Five Practical Tips To Keep You And Others Safe Online
- Pay attention to where the news has come from
If you’re reading something on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram feed, don’t think of it as information that’s approved or generated from those platforms, because it’s not.
Ask yourself, who is this coming from and what is the background?
If the article you read on social media makes specific statements that don’t seem true, ask yourself: who does this benefit? What’s the underlying source material? For example, you may have read that 5G masts were the true cause of coronavirus. In this case, the claims were possibly founded on people looking for a cause of lockdowns and as a way explaining increased stress to individuals.
- Develop a cautious approach
If you think about it, we’re often aware when something doesn’t seem quite right when we’re out and about in our daily lives. We might be walking down a street and suddenly aware of someone acting strangely or something feeling slightly out of place. Try to have the same approach to what your actions are online.
Think before acting. Question what you see, read and do.
- Why was this post written?
- Are they trying to fool me?
- Am I being sent to a website I’m not familiar with?
- Do others report the same or similar news?
- Check the source and writer of the content
Is the social media a post shared by others or a link from a website?
If it’s a post shared by others it’s sometimes difficult to work out who is the originator of the post. If you think it’s fake it’s better not to err on the site of caution and not share it.
If it’s a link from a website, can you find further evidence on reputable websites such as the local council, government, established news or medical websites such as the NHS or World Health Authority. And does the news item show the name of the writer and links to them on social media?
- Read on past the headline
The headline is there to capture attention and draw you in. Don’t be fooled by sensational attention-grabbing text. Read the full story before sharing with others.
Very often a headline is misleading and is designed to get you to click on the link to an article on a website which will most likely be filled with adverts within the copy of the news item. Some links will be from genuine newspapers and to be fair the adverts on these sites is where they now generate most of their revenue since they have lost readers of paper based newspapers.
However, sadly, there are many more of these type of news sites which are designed to sensationalise and mis-inform to gain clicks for advertising revenue.
- Look out for others in your network
If you see a news item shared by your friends of family do you check on their behalf? They may have been fooled but that doesn’t mean others need to be so too. Check it out, be kind and stop the spread of fake news on social media.
We all have a duty of care not to share false information. You can do your own search to check if it’s real or fake. Then let your friend know what you’ve found. If you think they will feel embarrassed to be duped why not send them a private message through social media and suggest they remove the post. That way you’ll be stopping the spread of false claims and fake news.
Other useful websites for help in identifying fake news
UK Safer Internet Centre – https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/blog/fake-news-and-critical-thinking
Stop Hate UK – https://www.stophateuk.org/how-to-identify-fake-news/
Facebook – Three Questions To Stamp Out False News – https://stampoutfalsenews.com/
Facebook – Tips to Spot False News
Answers to Fact or Fake Examples Of Social Media Content & Links
Number 2 – Fact – https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/pink-lakes-of-australia-real/
Number 3 – Partly Fact – The settings have always been set to allow anyone to add you to a group on WhatsApp. It hasn’t changed ‘overnight’.
Number 4 – Fake – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/57207134 – but the sad news is Janet actually tried it to see if it worked. Ha ha – Oh Janet!
And finally, if you are on social media, do keep safe and share with us any examples you’ve seen on fake news. And while you’re there do say hello to us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest & Instagram. We’d love to hear from you! #SoProHigh5!