In light of Donald Trump’s recent election, many fingers have been pointed at Facebook’s potential contribution. There have been voices accusing the network’s promotion of fake election news to the detriment of real stories, an idea rejected by Mark Zuckerberg as “crazy”.
Moreover, the Facebook founder also declared, in a recent post on his social media channel, that “of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes.”In spite of these constant re-assurances, however, Facebook updated its Audience Network policy, which already says it will not display ads in sites that show misleading or illegal content, to include fake news sites.
Google has not escaped such allegations either and, as a response, said it would ban purveyors of fake news on the web from using its online advertising service, AdSense.
However, these measures are probably not enough to keep us safe from the daily cavalcade of alarming headlines thrown in our direction. Here are a few tips and tricks which you can use to stay safe and sane from all the frenzy:
- Make sure the domain is legitimate
Some fake domains are easier to spot than others. For example, a redundant extension such as “.com.net” will certainly raise suspicions and a domain that slightly modifies a well-known website (by adding a “the” – thecnn.com or replacing a letter – gnn.com) should never be trusted or clicked on. Not only will you be misinformed but you may also end up with a virus posting on your behalf on social media.
- Watch out for grammar mistakes
Being a grammar nazi does have its perks. Many fake news websites are created in “farms” outside the country they target (they are harder to track that way) and editors are usually not native speakers of the language they write in. So watch out for unnatural phrasing! If it sounds wrong, it probably is.
- Be wary of ALL CAPS
You know the headlines we are talking about. Those that are practically screaming at us, inducing a state of panic. Do yourself a favor and don’t click on those.
- Google it before clicking on it
Always treat things that sound too good / too bad with to be true and feel the need to double check them. In classic journalism, rumors had to be double-sourced before being published and this is a great rule to apply nowadays to the simple act of reading, not only writing.
- If it’s uncredited, it’s probably fake
A respectable journalist would never leave his/her work unsigned. Hey, he/she may even include a short description next to their title and a picture from their best angle, so that you could recognize them on the street and thank them for the amazing articles they’ve changed your life with.
So if it’s unattributed, it’s probably fake.
- Unfollow those who always share fake news
If you are close friends in reality (not just in the digital world) you could tell them that they shouldn’t believe everything they read or even worse, not share everything they read.
Otherwise, unfollowing or unfriending these people should do the trick for a cleaner and quieter news feed.
- Subscribe to legitimate newspapers (on or offline)
Social media channels were not designed as trustworthy news sources. Printed newspapers were, however and the printed ones you buy from newsstands have a bigger responsibility for what they publish (you can easily delete and replace digital content, while the printed word stays there for generations to come).
Of course, there are also trustworthy digital news sources as well and checking their websites every now and then is better than waiting for the most relevant headlines (if only!) to randomly pop into your news feed.
Now that we’ve hopefully made fake news more obvious, let’s start a war against it. Whenever you discover such propaganda machineries, report them and help them disappear as much as possible from our already busy lives. Most social media channels have a reporting tool included.
On Facebook, for instance, click on the “v” menu in the upper-right corner of the post, then go to “Report post”, afterwards choose “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook” and finally select “It’s a false news story.”