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July 09, 2020

Spotting Fake News: What You Need to Know

Log on to any social media platform and you’re likely to see them: News articles and graphics claiming things like the coronavirus vaccine will have implantable chips in it or that California will receive 13 extra seats in Congress because of 10 million illegal aliens in the 2020 census. 

Misinformation like this is rampant on social media, and with the election coming up and COVID-19 updates and protests about social justice happening daily, it can be difficult to find the facts among the fiction. 

And while a study showed that a small percentage of people share fake articles, those over 65 are seven times more likely to post articles from fake news sites as those under age 29.

Study authors speculate that the reason people 65 and older are more prone to share false information is that they lack the digital literacy of younger generations. So how can you be sure that what you’re reading and sharing is factual? Here are some tips.

How to Spot Fake Information Online

Dig deeper: See something that piques your interest online? Before sharing or taking it as fact, open up another tab and search. Sites like snopes.com, politifact.com or factcheck.org can be helpful in weeding out the misinformation. 

Ask questions: If you’re wondering if something is real, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who wrote the information?
  • What are the credentials of the author?
  • Is the information current?
  • Is the website reputable? Is a company or organization sponsoring the website?
  • Are they trying to sell something?
  • Does the website support differing views on the topic?

Consider the source: Check the credibility of the author and the site on which you’re reading the information. Factcheck.org notes it has seen viral fake posts from sites like abcnews.com.co, WTOE 5 News whose About Us page proclaims it’s a fantasy news site, and the Boston Tribune, which only lists a Gmail address on its Contact Us page. If you can’t find any additional information on the author, the site mimics a credible source or the About Us or Contact pages have minimal information, take that as a sign to do more research. Legitimate news organizations will have information about their staff, credentials and locations readily available.

Go beyond the headline: Headlines are designed to get your attention, so if you’re pulled into an article by its headline, read a little further to see if the information is legitimate. It’s important to keep in mind that even in legitimate news stories, the headline may not tell the whole story.

Check the sources: Many fake news articles will cite real sources. If you see a credible source cited, go to that source’s website and see if the information is correct. Alternatively, a simple search of a statistic or number of an executive order or bill can yield the information you need to make an informed decision.

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