FACT CHECKING AND FACT CHECKERS :
How to Spot Fake News
How to Spot Fake News
Eugene Kiely and Lori RobertsonPosted
November 18, 2016
Fake news is nothing new. But bogus stories can reach more people more quickly via social media than what good old-fashioned viral emails could accomplish in years past.
Concern about the phenomenon led Facebook and Google to announce that theyll crack down on fake news sites, restricting their ability to garner ad revenue. Perhaps that could dissipate the amount of malarkey online, though news consumers themselves are the best defense against the spread of misinformation.
Not all of the misinformation being passed along online is complete fiction, though some of it is. Snopes.com has been exposing false viral claims since the mid 1990s, whether thats fabricated messages, distortions containing bits of truth and everything in between. Founder David Mikkelson warned in a Nov. 17 article not to lump everything into the fake news category. The fictions and fabrications that comprise fake news are but a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon, which also encompasses many forms of shoddy, unresearched, error-filled, and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone, he wrote.
A lot of these viral claims arent news at all, but fiction, satire and efforts to fool readers into thinking theyre for real.
Weve long encouraged readers to be skeptical of viral claims, and make good use of the delete key when a chain email hits their inboxes. In December 2007, we launched our Ask FactCheck feature, where we answer readers questions, the vast majority of which concern viral emails, social media memes and the like. Our first story was about a made-up email that claimed then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to put a windfall tax on all stock profits of 100 percent and give the money to, the email claimed, the 12 Million Illegal Immigrants and other unemployed minorities. We called it a malicious fabrication thats fake news in todays parlance.
In 2008, we tried to get readers to rid their inboxes of this kind of garbage. We described a list of red flags we called them Key Characteristics of Bogusness that were clear tip-offs that a chain email wasnt legitimate. Among them: an anonymous author; excessive exclamation points, capital letters and misspellings; entreaties that This is NOT a hoax!; and links to sourcing that does not support or completely contradicts the claims being made.
Those all still hold true, but fake stories as in, completely made-up news has grown more sophisticated, often presented on a site designed to look (sort of) like a legitimate news organization. Still, we find its easy to figure out whats real and whats imaginary if youre armed with some critical thinking and fact-checking tools of the trade.
Topics Discussed in This Article
Consider the source
Read beyond the headline
Check the author
Whats the support
Check the date
Is this some kind of joke?
Check your biases
Consult the experts
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