Fake news is everywhere. Thanks to the digital age, which has only made the menace worst. People and organizations behind them can play it really well making it a nightmare for you to distinguish whether it’s fake news or a real one. But, just like every criminal leaves behind some clue or makes some mistake, these people do as well. Here is a top to a bottom anatomy of how to spot fake news.
Ask yourself these questions to know whether the news article is fake or real:
1. Is the URL odd?
Does the website address look suspicious, is long and complex and includes many symbols and numbers? Then there are high chances of it being a fake news website. Always avoid websites which end with .com.co, .lo, .su etc. Further, beware of websites which are worded just like the popular mainstream websites. For instance, BBCnewspoint.com is the fake website which looks like the mainstream news website BBC. Another example would be NBCPhiladelphia.com versus NBCPhiladelphia.com.co. Or www.ncb-real-news.com
2. Does the headline make you say OMG?
Does the headline sound too good to be real or hard to be true? Then, trust your instincts. Fake news websites often use click-bait headlines to lure the readers to their website. Most often the headlines are outrageous and provoke emotions like anger, happiness, sadness etc. Headlines which are ALL CAPS and use dramatic punctuations!!!!??? are a big NO NO!
3. Is there a byline?
Stories from reputed media outlets have bylines mentioning the name of the author/journalist or news agencies with a link to their profile, contact details, and their past stories. Well, that’s something which will be absent in most of the fake news stories. Even if the name of an author is published dig deeper. Is it even a legit person, have they written any other stories for the website or other news organisations? Always make sure the authors are real, reliable and most importantly trustworthy.
4. When was the article published?
Keep a check on the date the article was published. We all have received a WhatsApp forwards based on an incident which took place years ago but we are compelled to believe it happened recently. Articles for reputable websites are updated on day to day basis to make it relevant for the audience.
5. Does the article include any legit sources?
The story’s format says it all! Legit news stories will be proofread, well edited and will include at least 2-3 expert quotes. Well, fake stories have obvious grammatical and spelling mistakes, use sensational language, make claims without any backing or sources and most importantly will be biased and completely one-sided. Either favouring someone or defaming someone.
6. Are they satirical?
There are websites which publish news which is for entertainment and satirical purpose only. While some news websites, like The Onion, clearly state their purpose, some others don’t. Like NewBuzzdaily, The Stately Harold etc which publish satirical news do give disclaimers but make sure that the readers find it hard to discover those. For instance, they will mention the fact that ‘This is satire’ but in black coloured letters at the bottom of the page in the copyright section. Hence, we can only read those if one highlights it with your cursor.
7. Are the images and visuals too dramatic?
In today’s digital age, images can be easily morphed and photo-shopped sending out a completely different message. Look out for photo credits or copyright information stating who took the photographs. Fake websites highly likely will not carry such credits. Use ‘Reverse Google Image Search or upload the image on www.imagesgoogle.com to find out where else it’s been published. To know how much of the image has been Photo-shopped, upload the image on go to Izitru.com or FotoForensics.com. Websites like these can detect how much of the image has been edited.
8. Is the website littered with ads?
If the website you visit is flooded with pop-ups like these ones, then it’s a red flag. Exit! The real intention behind this entire fake news menace is money! So it’s very likely they will have more ads than the genuine news websites which have limited ads so as to not to deter the audience from the information and news. It’s highly likely that these ads will be focused on sex, unbelievable claims of weight loss or you winning some lottery.
9. Most importantly, is the mainstream media reporting it?
If no, then a high percentage of the story being a fake one. If it’s a genuine story which is of national or global importance, then it will surely be covered by mainstream media outlets like BBC, CNN, TOI, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Al Jazeera etc. So, if you come across a story which you feel is fake, Google search the keywords of the story. If the search result shows many other unknown and suspicious websites, then for sure it’s fake. Or not why would the reputable news media not do a piece on it.
India is trying very hard to deal with fake news, especially after the whole WhatsApp lynching incidents this year.