Have you ever read an article that enraged you so badly that you felt like going out and doing something to set things right? And then hours later, you found out that the article was a fake? How terrible would you feel when taken for a ride like that? But it has become rather common these days. With so many channels of news bludgeoning you with information every hour, it may become difficult to tell which one is real and which one is fake. However, if you do not take the responsibility of finding this out, you could end up getting manipulated by a set of unscrupulous people. Take a look at this article to find what fake news is and how you can stop yourself from falling prey to it.
What is Fake News
Fake news appears as convincing as real news and, in some cases, much more appealing than real news. It can be broadly divided into the following categories.
Misinformation refers to defective information passed on to you. When some facet of news is reported wrong, the whole news item becomes false and can even be dangerous if it suggests something that did not really happen. It is very important for media sources to report everything accurately as even small mistakes can lead to grave and mass-scale misunderstanding.
However, fake news is generated on purpose with the intention of misleading people and pushing them to unsavory conclusions.
E.g., If a certain accident is reported as an incident of deliberate killing, it can impact the psychology of the readers or viewers adversely.
Disinformation refers to conspiracy theories or hoaxes that are planted into media just to mislead people and keep them from knowing facts. Such hoaxes are reported in convincing tones, leading to wastage of precious time and resources. Sometimes, the outcomes can even be dangerous.
E.g., Conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 vaccines being an attempt to control people acted as a deterrent to people getting vaccines. This, in turn, made it more difficult for the authorities to contain and end the pandemic.
Malinformation passes on wrong information about a person, a group of people, or a particular institution leading to loss of reputation by the concerned parties. This can lead to severe consequences for the affected people as their image is sullied, sometimes irreparably.
E.g., A story maligning a popular individual’s character can rake in a lot of viewership. But this can spell doom for the person in concern as well as for the brands that they might be promoting.
How to Detect and Avoid Fake News
As a consumer, you can do a lot to prevent fake news from manipulating you. Here are some simple tips for you to deploy. These can help you to stay away from fake news. Watch out for the following classical signs of fakery:
- Strange source
Before you trust an article or news content, be sure that you have taken a look at the source. Believe only the news items that are published by reputed media houses as they are not going to make money by peddling fake news. On the other hand, if you see an unknown name selling some kind of cock and bull story to you, you have every reason to doubt the authenticity of the information.
- Screaming headline
Seasoned journalists do not write headlines that sound needy or are screaming for your attention. Yes, headlines are supposed to be attention-grabbing but good media houses still make sure that aesthetics is not compromised while creating such a headline. If you see phrases like “Tell all about it!”, “Spread the word to everyone!” or other immature requests in the header, it is probably not authentic news.
- Photoshopped picture
A picture is worth a thousand words. They show you a photoshopped image and it is likely to stay in your mind for a long time. Sometimes, even forever. But before you share the picture or tell others about it, ask yourself if it looks authentic? Shoddy photoshop often shows and that can be a glaring proof that the rest of the article too is stuffed with lies.
- Too many pop-ups
If you are scrolling through an article on the internet, you can keep a tab on the number of advertisements or pop-ups that you encounter while reading the news item. If there are too many of them disrupting your reading, you can be sure that the article is not to be trusted.
- Hard to believe story
It is always good to use your common sense. If a story reeks of fakery and falsehood, it probably is not true. Trust your gut and move on to better articles.
- No citations
Reputed media sources will give you links and citations that prove their information is correct. They do not just shove something down your throat without backing the story up with solid evidence. If there is no evidence in the article, it just means that the story is a work of fiction.
- Iffy domain name
While reading the articles on internet, check the domain names. When the domain name sounds iffy, you can be sure that so is the content. Any media house worth its salt will have a proper website registered against their company.
- Does not sound right
If the article is written in poor language and is full of errors, then be sure that it is not to be trusted. Good brands invest a lot of money to produce error-free articles written in polished language. They will not try to pass half-baked stories to you as news.
What to do if you Suspect a News Item to be Fake
The first thing to do on spotting probable fake news is to take a deep breath and calm down. Now do the following.
- Google the article and verify things
Google what you have just read. There are plenty of websites that offer you data on fake or real articles. Do a bit of investigation and fact-checking before you get worked up about anything.
- Report the news item
If you see something dangerous to be in circulation, immediately report it to the cops. Do not ignore things that are potentially harmful. Your timely action can save people from harm.
- Do not share
Investigations show that spurious news articles are more likely to be shared than authentic news content. But you can be different. Do not share fake articles and try to deter your friends or close ones from doing so.
Fake news can be extremely manipulative so you need to remain extremely careful in order to stay away from it. You can do your bit to protect the society from the onslaught of misinformation. Stay on guard and implement a number of simple checks to make sure that fake news does not percolate down to you or the ones around you.