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How to spot fake news like a pro?

Dolphins resurging in Venice, Hungarian police force-quarantining senior citizens, and hot water as a cure for a coronavirus infection. All these news have something in common: they are not real. Panic, uncertainty, and easy access to mass information are the perfect recipe to spread rumors and fake news.

With fake reports rising on social media, how do I avoid falling for them? Here is a list of useful tips to spot fake news like a pro.

Premium: Fake news

Check your sources

A very good first step is to recognize the source of the news you’re reading. Double-check that every news you read comes from a respected source. A helpful tip is to have a list of preferred news sources at hand. If you’re discovering a new site, read some other articles before reaching conclusions. If their coverage seems diverse enough and references factual information, you’re good to go. But beware, the devil is in the details.

Facts vs. opinions

Not everything you read in a respected newspaper is factual information. Commonly, some news sites have editorials with usual commentators. There is nothing wrong with reading an opinion article, but keep in mind that they will usually give you their interpretation of the facts. This is why you should be aware that the facts presented in an editorial might be made to fit the author’s view. While this is fine, check if the information you read lets you create your own opinion. If it doesn’t, there might be more spice than accuracy.

If it’s too outrageous to be true, it might as well not be

With so many sensationalistic headlines, it’s common to find news that prompts a strong emotional reaction. Fake news, however, is carefully crafted to influence your opinion on certain topics. Be it videos on a foreign language, leaked government communications, or advice from self-assessed experts, check that the information you find is backed by an actual journalist and not a random news site.

Even if what you see seems true and it’s too distressing, ask yourself: why am I watching this now? You might be the target of a fake news campaign.


Beware of conspiracy theories

While sometimes entertaining, conspiracy theories are just not true. Even when they’re based on information that seems legitimate, they always lack solid evidence to back them. If a world domination plot seems too real to ignore, just take a step back and analyze if what made you reach that conclusion is legitimate.

Don’t worry, countries all over the world have huge intelligence agencies. They will contact you if they know you know too much.

Social media is not news

Sure, in this digital age, thousands of media outlets and government entities use Social Media to communicate. However, this doesn’t mean that everything posted on it is based on facts. Social Media has become a battleground where many actors fight for your attention.

From subtle things like memes to outright allegations, keep in mind that what you see on unofficial channels is probably not true. A good tip to tell what’s true and what’s not is to use the search option and see if other sources have replicated what you just saw. If the facts are right, there is a big change other better-known sources have already shared it.

Check if the date, place, and language match with what you see

A common tactic in fake news sharing is to take footage from real situations and put them in a different context or time. When you see a video in a foreign language or different setting, make sure that you’re not watching recycled footage from another conflict.

As in the previous point, a good tip is to look at whether what you’re seeing is recent or it had happened before. Similarly, be sure to spot a credible source that backs up suspicious or graphic footage. If no one had, it might be a set-up.

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