5 – HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY FAKE NEWS?
To spot fake news, you must use the tools of fact checking as often as possible by following a few rules:
1. Find out the nature of the site where you found the item. Usually, the ‘Legal notices’ or ‘About’ sections of a website will tell you what kind of site you are visiting (blog, humour site, government, etc.). If it is a social media site, find out the nature of the account that posted or shared the item (parody account, government account, etc.).
2. Check the publication date of the item. These days, news quickly becomes obsolete or debunked/verified.
3. Find out the author’s identity. Is the author a journalist? An expert on the topic they are discussing? A private individual? Ask yourself about the author’s intent: are they looking to inform, state their point of view, or manipulate?
4. Trace the item back to its source. Where was it originally published? Very often on the internet, information is shared, posted, and sometimes also twisted, taken out of context, or given ‘spin’, so it is important to find out where the information came from.
5. Ask yourself the right questions, be curious and sceptical. Critical thinking is the best tool we have to protect ourselves from fake news and conspiracy theories.
CASE IN POINT
In the 2016 American presidential campaign, the city of Vélès, Macedonia became the ‘fake news capital of the world’. What happened was that around a hundred young Macedonians, operating under the influence of state powers, created a veritable ‘fake news factory’, whose goal was to use the internet to barrage American public opinion with fake news in order to help Donald Trump win.
These young people were earning almost 10,000 euros per month to create fake accounts and make up fake articles. One of the most common fake news pieces sought to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s credibility by spreading rumours to tarnish her image. The fake piece alleging that ‘Barack Obama was funding Hillary Clinton’s campaign with money stolen from veterans’ came from Vélès and gained significant traction in the US.