How to Be One Step Ahead of ‘Fake’ News

It’s no secret that we live in a world where “fake news” rules the modern media and baseless stories populate every corner of the internet. But lately, outrageous stories such as these or the ones that circulated during the 2016 election have been taking hold unsuspecting readers and causing real life consequences. So, how can we get ahead of such a pervasive problem? Simple—use these 8 fact-checking hacks to help you keep a level head when assessing any news source, story, or piece of nonfiction literature.

1. Don’t just go by the headline.

It’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of spotting a catchy title and not bothering to read what the article is about. Make sure to confirm that the headline and the substance of the story actually line up.

2. Always look at the website or source.

Where the story comes from is one of easiest and most vital ways to fact-check an article. If the piece is from a reputable source like The New York Times or CNN, it is most likely a real story with legitimate facts. But be careful - fake news sites often take on the same name as real ones. Anything “.com.co” is questionable, as well as shady Facebook pages that have lots of popups and redirect you constantly.

3. Check out the ‘more information’ or ‘about’ tab.

You can learn a lot about an article when you investigate the author and the publisher, as well as the organization that is actually financing the source. For example, if a source that seems legit claims mac-n-cheese can help you lose weight, but the website itself is sponsored by the National Macaroni Coalition of America, you’re going to want to do a little more research before switching to a Kraft-based diet.

4. Look at the quotes in the story and the sources they use.

A lack of quotes or statistics in a non-opinion piece is like a margarita pizza without the mozzarella. All scientific articles should have at least one study or piece of evidence cited—without this, there’s almost no guarantee that the author has any facts to verify their hypothesis. For example, although this article claims that marijuana has the power to kill human cancer cells, it does not provide a shred of cold, hard evidence to corroborate this thesis. In fact, the story even admits that such tests were only proven on rats!

5. Read the comments.

If you suspect that a story is fake, chances are someone else before you has, too. he comment section can be a beautiful place to see if anyone else has called out the article for inaccuracies, so it’s always worthwhile to take a peek.

6. Search for similar stories elsewhere.

If multiple reputable sources are reporting the same story, you can almost guarantee that the facts check out. However, if many different articles are offering conflicting pieces of evidence and making contradictory claims, keep browsing. If one website insists drinking wine causes cancer while another boasts of its medicinal benefits, make sure to double-check the facts with additional articles before proclaiming your newfound knowledge on the subject at an upcoming family gathering.

7. Still can’t tell if the story is a hoax? Reverse searching for the image on Google will take your sleuthing to a new level.

This is some CIA-level snooping. Plus, it’s easier to do than you might think: just right click on the image and hit search google. If the picture is all over the web and appears in multiple different stories about an assortment of topics, it’s probably not actually an image of what the story claims it is.

8. Finally, follow your instincts.

If something seems a little off to you, listen to your gut. But  don’t just discount the content of an article merely because you don’t necessarily agree with the author or the stance that it takes. Staying ahead of fake news is about having an all-encompassing approach to navigating modern media, and that can only be possible if you educate yourself on different views and opinions.

 

Izzie Henderson is a first-year student at Brown University studying Health and Human Biology. Her interests include women's health, photography, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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