In the not too distant past, you would wake up on a Sunday morning, make a cup of coffee and read the newspaper for your fix of global happenings and goings-on. In the present you still wake up on a Sunday morning, make yourself a cup of coffee, but instead of a newspaper you pick up your iPad and have to sift through a deluge of news while trying to sort the fake from the credible. News travels around the world faster now than ever before, with major news stories being shared across personal blogs and social media pages by countless thousands of people. Unfortunately, this has also given rise to Fake News.
Some sites, like The Onion, intentionally write false, humorous stories and everyone knows that The Onion is a satirical publication. Other sites write blatantly false stories purely to drive traffic to their websites to generate ad revenue. This is further helped along by the rapid spread of (miss)information through social media.
Let’s look at a couple of ways in which you can ensure that you are reading real news.
1) Know the Source.
It’s safe to assume the stories run by the likes of the Wallstreet Journal and Washington Post are credible. On the other hand, you have The Daily Mail, one of the most visited websites in the world, but also regarded as one of Britain’s least reputable publications. Publications like The Daily Mail, The Onion and others like them often mix legitimate stories with questionable ones. The best way to make sure that you are not falling victim to fake news is to simply avoid questionable news sources altogether.
2) Major, reputable outlets are not running the story.
If you stumble across a scintillating piece of gossip or major world event on your Facebook feed the first thing you should do is go to Google and look if any reputable news outlets are running the story. If aliens were truly spotted shopping in New York, and CNN is not running the story then you can safely assume that it is fake news.
3) Easy Money and Breakthrough Cures…click-bait lies.
We have all seen web tiles with headlines like “Wallstreet traders don’t want you to know this” or “Incredible trick to cure earworm”. Ok, the latter may not be a real condition, but then again neither are those kinds of stories. These “click-bait” headlines want nothing more than for you to click them and create more revenue-generating traffic for their site owners.
4) Stories that seem unbelievable, too funny or downright strange.
One of the most famous fake news stories of this nature involved a 13-year-old boy who stole his dad’s credit cards, took his friends on a thirty-thousand-dollar shopping spree, and ordered two hookers from an escort agency whom he then invited to play Halo in a nearby hotel. Simply put, if a story sounds like it could be the plot of a Hollywood comedy then it’s probably not true.
Reading fake news, purposefully written to be funny or satirical, can be a fun break from a world that is often too serious. Hopefully, these tips will help you tell the truthful and the purposefully satirical from the downright fake.