How to avoid being victim of fake news

Última actualización: April 16th, 2020 - 06:21 pm

The concept of misinformation is not new. The manipulation of news has been part of history since the media was born. However, with the advance of new technologies and the global reach of social media networks, misinformation has mutated into what’s today known as fake news.

Nowadays, anyone, anywhere, can access a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone and use the device to create and massively spread news from questionable and misinformed sources.

Internet has changed the rules of the reliable communication and information—news, data, photos and links shared in the social media help modify the users’ opinions. For some audiences, social media constitute the only source of information. Hence, they’re more influenced by them than by the news released in the press.

Against what happens with traditional media, new information channels don’t need to contrast content, which allows information to reach thousands of people in record time, and not necessarily be truthful. Besides, these messages are generally shared between family members, friends and colleagues, which makes people believe they’re true. However, very few individuals check the source of information they receive or contrast sources before sending them to other people.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a statement warning that, generally, people are not ready and do not have the required tools and/or knowledge to confront misinformation and fake news campaigns. The international organism focuses on work at schools as prevention measure from early ages. The question is—how to make different generations to develop a critical look about the over-information available on social media?

It’s time to pay attention to fake news, common currency in all social media platforms and about every subject, given it’s not something that only reaches political or mass media environments.

Detailed below, you’ll find some tips to avoid being the victim of fake news:

  1. Contrast sources. If you receive news or a screenshot where the author is not clearly mentioned, don’t trust it. However, a source by itself doesn’t mean anything. That’s why it’s important to check several news portals to check the information. For example, if you receive a screenshot with a tweet, go to that account’s Twitter account to verify that person actually wrote that.
  • Verify the URL is real. Many times, the URL seems to be from a trustworthy website, but it’s not. Sometimes, the fake URL has an extra vowel or is missing a consonant, not to alert the distracted user. That’s why it’s recommended to click on the article to check it is, in fact, a real website.
  • Read beyond the title. Overinformation is common currency nowadays, and it’s easy to find tabloid headlines designed to impact on first sight. It’s important to make sure the information within the article is coherent with the headline before sharing the news.
  • Pay attention to spelling mistakes. Another test to know whether we’re in front of a real news, is to pay attention to how it’s written. If the information is real, it shouldn’t have spelling nor grammar mistakes, incoherencies or paragraphs written in capital letters.
  • Don’t trust profiles with pseudonyms. There’re many fake profiles in social media created to share and spread fake or undermined news. It’s recommended not to trust those that use pseudonyms on their profiles. In case you find a fake profile, it’s convenient to denounce it so the social media platform can investigate about it and take it down, to avoid other people being deceived.
  • Check pictures. Nowadays, any picture can be manipulated using editing software. It’s not necessary to be an expert on the subject to modify or even compose a photo to send the message we want. It only requires a couple minutes to find the source of the photo, its source and if it was taken within another context or used for another moment. For this, you can use the “search by image” in Google, clicking on the icon of the photo camera of the searcher, for example. From there, you can add the picture URL or upload the photo to find the original source.
  • Pay attention to the publishing date. The context is very important to decide whether a news is fake or not, because what’s published today as truth, it could become a lie in a few years. If it was published a long time ago, or the date doesn’t even appear, it’s suspicious.
  • Leave ideologies and ideas behind. If a news is akin to our ideas or ideology doesn’t mean it’s true. The same applies to the opposite situation—if we read something about a subject we don’t agree with, it doesn’t mean it’s fake.
  • Validate the information even if it comes from a friend or family member. Many times, we receive news through family members, friends or colleagues and we assume it’s real. However, they might have been victims of a misinformation campaign, so it’s important to check data before forwarding the information.

Para no caer en las garras de las ‘fake news’, es necesario ser críticos y usar el sentido común. Antes de compartir una noticia, te recomendamos seguir estas indicaciones que nombramos y así ser parte aquellos que defienden la verdad.

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