From time to time, surfing on the web, we all become victims of fake news. However, reading or even spreading fake news in every-day situations does not have the same effect as citing it in academic papers. A single reference to fake news may put the credibility of the whole paper on a doubt.
Before we learn how to avoid fake news, it is necessary to clarify what is fake news. Well, any untrue information posted fall into this category. Let us classify and define deceptive posts.
Fake News Definition and Classification
The news that does not correspond with the real state of things is considered fake. All posts with false information can be divided into two main categories: intentional and unintentional.
Unintentional fake news is the result of a mistake, the lack of competence of the author, wrong processing of information, or a simple misunderstanding of the context. If the result of such a mistake is shocking and leads to a social resonance, news gets spread on the web very fast.
Intentional deceptive posts are far more frequent. Such posts and articles are created with the aim to misguide readers and/or hide the real things that are worth attention behind. Sometimes, posts with false information are created simply to drag attention of users, get more clicks, and raise the number of visitors of a certain web resource.
Fake News VS Real News: Mind the Source
Our first hint on how to spot posts with fake information will be to check the source of the information. Simply put, if certain information appeared on a doubtful website, the probability of its being fake is quite high and you should not use it in article writing.
The number of websites dragging attention of people via publishing completely false information has significantly increased since 2016. They not only misinform people, but also make them disregard the real news which is really important simply overloading them with more emotionally appealing but fake information. Knowing how to identify fake news, you will secure yourself and people who surround you from such a trap.
Such websites often consider themselves as satirical with the only aim to entertain people. Thus, they are free from any responsibility. The authors not even try to make their posts sound like true though.
Paul Horner has created a few websites of this kind. He is the owner of a few URLs, which look quite reliable, namely nbc.com.co and abcnews.com.co. One should pay attention to .co at the end. None of such websites is related to real ABC, NBC, or other TV channels, magazines etc., so it is easy to identify them. However, not paying enough attention to the website’s domain, one can take such a website as a real newsroom. Usually, the stories posted as so well-written, that a reader who is not an expert in the fields discussed can take that false information as the truth.
One more thing to consider: check whether the website deletes anything posted. Reliable editions cannot delete anything they have posted without a proper notification about that. So, you may spot a fake news resource by seeing some posts appear and disappear on the website.
Consider the Usual Features of Texts About Things That Are Fake
First thing that should make you doubt is a too expressive heading. “CLICK TO SEE A SENSATION!!” “WHOLE WORLD IS SURPRISED” are some of the articles you should avoid using as a reference for your paper. According to the journalists’ ethics, news post is not allowed to have a personal evaluation to be considered as such. The more sensational is the post, the more chances you have to identify fake news here. Consider not only the header, but the whole text of the post as well: the more emotional words it uses, the more alert you should be.
Another feature that will help you to spot fake news is the content of the heading and introduction. Those will be maximally vague and not supported by any facts. All the facts will be placed at the end, listed, and not really confirming what was said before. Journalists know that people read the headline, then less attention is paid to the introduction, and finally, people hardly read what is written at the end.
One more hint on how to identify fake news is to look through the text. It should meet the main journalistic criteria: fullness, exactness, checked experts, correct context. If you see a poorly structured text, grammatical mistakes, or unprofessional vocabulary, congratulations: you have spotted a post with false information.
Fake News Definition: Will Links to Reliable Sources Help?
In order to avoid usage of false information in academic writing, some students check the references of the post. However, this is not a proper approach.
Some resources with inaccurate info benefit from the reputation of reliable editions. For example, one blog post in a well-known magazine is quoted as the position of the whole magazine, which is not actually true. Basically, such an expert, quote, and edition do exist, but not mentioning that this is a blog article makes a huge difference. So, if you see a quotation of an authoritative web resource, this will not necessary help avoid false information on the web.
A common technique applied by the creators of deceptive post is to take a quote out of its context and change its meaning as per their aims. Or, they simply come up with a fake quote, being convinced that most people will not check. So, here is one more hint on how to avoid fake news: search the quote to see its full context and check whether it exists at all.
Besides the text references, it is necessary to check visuals. Manipulative and fake news posts often use pictures and video, which do not correlate with the content. The use of the archival materials as if they are actual will also help you to spot fake news.
Conclusion on What Is Fake News and How to Spot Them
So, we have come up with the algorithm of how to identify fake news:
- Headline. Does it have “capslocked” text, quotation or exclamation marks, sensation in it?
- Source. Check the URL attentively, check the primary source of facts, consider the dates of primary sources publications. For you to know, most reliable newsrooms redirect their users to .com or .net domains even if they own some others. If the URL ends with .co, read the name of the website to see the true website of the edition.
- Look through the text. Are there reliable and trustworthy citations? Do the pictures and videos correlate with the text? Is the text grammatically correct and does it lack expressive and evaluation vocabulary?
To make sure you see the difference between fake news vs real news, do the following as well:
- Install extensions like B.S.Detector to your browser. It will alert you about visiting a doubtful web resource.
- Look for the same information in reliable websites. If you cannot find the news anywhere else, you have spotted fake news.
- Check the lower footer of the website. Some may say that the website is not a newsroom and is for entertainment only.
- Benefit from the fact-checking services. Some reliable ones are Snopes, Politifact, FactCheck.Org etc.