Where do you get your news from? How do you know if it’s accurate? Do you check to make sure what you’re reading is reliable? These days, what you read may not reflect the truth. We are deluged with information from varied sources, some of which are more authentic than others. It is up to us to distinguish between what is real and what is fake news.
Fake News has become more prevalent than ever before. However, it’s clear that it existed a long time ago as well. One just needs to look at the 1948 Presidential election to see the apocryphal Chicago Herald Tribune headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” to see evidence of this. Today, the pervasiveness of misinformation and disinformation is facilitated by the numerous avenues that are available to spread news, as well as the various social media outlets that allow anybody to write anything. The consequence of all of this fake news is the impact on people’s lives, sometimes with devastating result.
For example, the PizzaGate Scandal that occurred around the 2016 presidential election almost resulted in lives lost. Edgar Maddison Welch drove to the Comet Ping Pong Restaurant in Washington DC with three guns, believing that Hillary Clinton was partly responsible for children who were held hostage and made into sex slaves in a back room at the pizzeria. Welch fired three shots with an AR-15 rifle in hopes of “saving” the children. This is just one example of how the dissemination of rumors and conspiracy theories on the internet can lead to significant repercussions in society. Fortunately, no one was hurt during this event. But we may not be so lucky next time.
Alex Jones, a radio show host and conspiracy theorist, has been a major source of unreliable and inaccurate information. He spoke out on his radio show that the shooting at The Sandy Hook School was not real, and the parents and kids were all actors. These accusations prompted death threats against the mourning families and caused some of Alex Jones’ followers to believe that the parents of the kids who die were simply liars.
Even though there are websites out there that claim to distinguish real news from fake news, these websites are not 100% accurate and they cannot always prove that their claims are incontrovertible.
So how can you make sure that the news you are reading everyday is accurate?
- Find out who the author of the article is
- Has the author published many other articles? Look the author up online and see his/her credentials: Where have they published? How many articles have they written? Where does he/she work now?
- Read the “About Us” page
- Make sure to see that there’s a clear background of the news source, including its history, mission statement, and any other valid information. Who funds the site?
- Look at the domain name
- Many people create websites that will look like exact replicas of the real, legitimate website. Be cognizant and make sure the website you’re reading isn’t a “.com.co” or any other suspicious domain extension.
- Where did you find this article?
- Did you find it on a social media platform like Facebook, or from a well-known news website? You should be extra cautious when reading an article found on social media.
- Look at the quotes
- If you’re reading an article on a complex issue, there should be many quotes scattered throughout the article. If you’re reading an article that is lacking quotes, you should be cognizant that what you’re reading may not be accurate.
- If there are quotes throughout the article, look them up to see if the quote is real and if it’s said by the person who is quoted.
- Reverse Searches
- Check the cited sources to make sure the information matches
- A reverse search could also be done on an image. Try finding that image online and see where it brings you. Is it even an image from the event you are reading about or is it a picture that was used in an article 5 years ago about a similar topic?
It’s clear that as we venture into this new age of journalism, we must be vigilant when we analyze the information that is provided to us. Because if we are not, then what we believe are facts may not be.