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17 Simple Ways To Spot Fake News: Instructions For The Left and The Right

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Friday, April 6, 2018

In recent years there has been a deluge of fake news – deliberate half-truths or hoaxes spread primarily on social media. The intent is hostile – inflict a wound on a person or entity for political gain or to just take pleasure in cruelty. Fabricated, sensational headlines are used to earn money on clicks and boost social media sharing by like-minded charlatans.

Two popular fake news examples:

----Donald Trump never said: "If I were to run, I'd run as a Republican. They're the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they'd still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific."

----Pizzagate was a widely circulated conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party were running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington DC.

Below are 17 simple ways to spot fake news:

Check your first impression: Or to put it another way, trust your gut. If it is too good to be true, too outrageous to be true, too extreme, or if there is an obvious profit motive, you’re probably right. Time to do some research.

Check the sources: Are there several primary sources cited? Are they professionals in their field or are they popular conspiracy theorists? Are peer-reviewed studies cited, such as the wealth of studies on PubMed or Google Scholar? Is it sponsored content?

Check the URL: Fake news sites often have an attachment after .com like .co or .ru to get away with having a well-known name in their web address. Others blatantly use CBS, for example, in their URL but the address is CBS- daily-news.com.  Some fraudsters even get away with using the web address of a popular site but inserting one barely noticeable spelling mistake.

Check if the story primarily appeals to emotions: Are they fear-based stories that cause readers to suspend critical thinking and give in to anxiety? Fake news writers are skilled at making people so angry or so fearful that they won’t take the trouble to fact check. Emotions take over and any attempts to change the person’s mind will be seen as more treachery from those vilified.

Check the writer’s byline: Evaluate his/her social media presence – is there a LinkedIn or verified Twitter profile? Read their other articles. A legitimate journalist will have professional credentials. In some fake news cases a simple Google search reveals the author does not exist.

Check for corrections: Legitimate publications are always fact-checking and correcting where errors are found. Fake news web sites are only focused on manipulating the news and don’t bother to fact check or correct. As an example review Reuter’s policy on correcting mistakes: http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php?title=Corrections,_Refiles,_Kills,_Repeats_and_Embargoes

Check who else is reporting the story: Bizarre claims and secret conspiracy theories don’t usually pass the smell test. If the major media, on the right and left, are covering it, then it has been vetted, and more likely to be true. Partisan spin can be left to the reader’s own discernment.

Check the authenticity of the photo: Use Google’s reverse image search https://reverse.photos/ or TinEye  https://www.tineye.com/  .

Check out the links: Does clicking the link only take you to another page on the same site or identical site to validate the story?  

Check out the words used: Are there spelling or grammar mistakes? Is it laced with profanity? Is the language provocative and inflammatory?

Check your biases: Are your present beliefs affecting your judgement? Do you really want to know the facts, or is the possibility of being wrong just too hard on your ego?

Check out views and opinions from both sides of the political divide: Read about an issue from the most prominent publications on the right and the left. This will result in a more nuanced, intelligent and fair-minded evaluation. You still may not agree with the other side, but you will have a better understanding of them and not see them as raving lunatics. Uninformed and insincere people only consume one side of an issue and ignore those “crazy” people on the other side.   

Check out the other stories in the publication: The story you are reading may sound plausible. What about the others? Are they at the level of National Enquirer style headlines? Do they pass the smell test?

Is it reporting a cure for cancer? That is being suppressed by Big Pharma? Claims of miraculous health cures are everywhere and date back to the 1800’s. In most cases the article is tied to a for-profit snake-oil cure for cancer or most other health conditions.

Is it satire that is picked up by a fake news site and presented as fact? The Onion and the Borowitz Report (https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report) are examples of sites that give insightful commentary but with a creative and comedic edge. They are not intended to be news.  

Is it from social media? Social media does not check facts. Most of the ridiculous and outrageous examples of fake news go viral on the various social media platforms. This is the Wild Wild West of news where anyone and everyone can post something, and if it is clever and convincing enough, will actually get traction.

Are you using the best fact-checking sites? The site Media Bias Fact Check is fair in evaluating bias for both the right and the left. Fox News is classified as having "right-wing bias" with mixed accuracy. MSNBC has a "left-wing" bias with mixed accuracy. 

Top fact-checking sites:

Advice for the Right: Your many valid points are being undermined by your affinity for outright lies. You constantly fall for the Confirmation Bias fallacy – any story you come across that supports your position must be true! If you have to lie to defend your position, there is something wrong with your position. Don’t sacrifice your integrity for temporary political power.

Advice for the Left: Because the overwhelming number of people who work for the mainstream media are decidedly on the left, the onus is on you to spend quality time with the other point of view. Here is a piercing insight from the left leaning The Atlantic on how many on the left (TV hosts and their millions of viewers) have total contempt for those who disagree with them. If you’re upset that so many people voted for Trump – look in the mirror:

“Though aimed at blue-state sophisticates, these shows are an unintended but powerful form of propaganda for conservatives. When Republicans see these harsh jokes—which echo down through the morning news shows and the chattering day’s worth of viral clips, along with those of Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers—they don’t just see a handful of comics mocking them. They see HBO, Comedy Central, TBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC. In other words, they see exactly what Donald Trump has taught them: that the entire media landscape loathes them, their values, their family, and their religion. It is hardly a reach for them to further imagine that the legitimate news shows on these channels are run by similarly partisan players—nor is it at all illogical. No wonder so many of Trump’s followers are inclined to believe only the things that he or his spokespeople tell them directly—everyone else on the tube thinks they’re a bunch of trailer-park, Oxy-snorting half-wits who divide their time between retweeting Alex Jones fantasies and ironing their Klan hoods.”

Additional Info

A Guide to Misinformation: How to Spot and Combat Fake News  https://www.verizon.com/info/technology/fake-news-on-social-media/

Fake News, Misinformation, & Fact-Checking | Ohio University MPA  https://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/masters-public-administration/guide-to-misinformation-and-fact-checking/ 

Fake news, hoax images: How to spot a digitally altered photo from the real deal http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-02-11/fake-news-hoax-images-digitally-altered-photos-photoshop/9405776

Our brains love spreading lies all over the internet https://www.popsci.com/fake-news-spreads-faster

Media Bias / Fact Check: Conspiracy-Pseudoscience  https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/conspiracy/

Most Americans Who See Fake News Believe It, New Survey Says https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/fake-news-survey?utm_term=.kuLNVQ5A3#.ywlVPzE2Q

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Photo: http://nationalpost.com/entertainment/books/should-the-definition-of-fake-news-be-set-by-the-writer-or-the-reader

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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