2019 Apr 25
The recent “fake news” epidemic seems to have only increased following the terror attacks that shook the island a few days ago, despite several notices that warn the public to rely only on verified news sources. Fake news is any information that is not true or partly true but not entirely accurate. The many arbiters of disinformation, who are often hard to trace, create and spread false information for purposes of propaganda, satire and a desire to sensationalize the current situation. The speed at which fake news and hoaxes spread across social media is staggering.
As more members of the public become unsuspecting participants to a potentially harmful fake news cycle, here are a few steps you can take as a responsible citizen.
1. Consider the source
Where did you receive the news from? Has it been confirmed by a reliable news platform? If the information contains hyperlinks, click on the story and assess the nature of the website, its mission as well as the availability of contact information or the lack it. Look for important signs such as – is it a professional and well-known news agency or does it look more like a personal blog?
If the information you received comes with no indication of the source, consider the reputation of the person who sent it to you. Is he/she usually known for sharing verified information, etc.? Additionally, several people who share some of the stories that have gone viral state that it was shared by someone trustworthy that they know (i.e. a relative who has access to government information, a friend in the vicinity at which the news is reported on, etc.). Keep in mind that such assurances may not always mean that the news you received is entirely true.
2. Read beyond
Look for more information before believing everything you read. Refrain from merely reading the headline of the news story. Read the entire body of the text to ensure that the headline is not simply ‘click bait’ or a hoax. Conduct a quick Google search or browse other reputable sources to find out if you can get more information on the news you received.
3. Cross check
Are other reliable sites, platforms, or channels reporting on the story? Cross check the information you received with other reputed new sources. If you are unable to find any other information pertaining to it, there is a huge chance the information you received is false.
4. Do not forward every message
End the fake news cycle by not clicking forward on every message. Act responsibly by following the steps above in order to ensure that the information you have received is 100% accurate. When in doubt, refrain from forwarding messages with taglines that say ‘forwarding as received’ and ‘I don’t know if this is true, but…’
5. Check the date
Videos, pictures and articles from months/years ago may surface. Be wary of such material as they may not be related to the current situation. Check if the media shared has been verified by other reliable news agencies/journalists.
6. Do not give in to the panic
Spreading panic in a time of fear is common. Follow every above step before giving in to the panic. A country in high security alert following a crisis event can leave people in fear and distress. In a day and age where one news story can go viral in a matter of seconds – regardless of its accuracy – it is the duty of the general public to play their part in filtering verified information and dismissing the rest, while taking step to avoid sensationalizing news stories.