Digital tools have made it easier than ever to create, edit, and publish information to the world. It has, however, also made it easier to spread misinformation.

We unknowingly circulate fake news articles because they are presented in ways designed to look like legitimate news sources, making it difficult to distinguish true from false. The coronavirus is a case in point; while many new cases are revealed daily, some misinformation is circulating, in between what’s really going on. It’s important to double check the facts before believing what you read.  Here are four tips that when used together, can make it easier to identify and avoid fake news altogether.

Burst your bubble

Filter bubbles form when websites make use of algorithms to selectively present information it assumes you want to see. The information about you is sourced from your device’s location, click behaviour, search and browser history.

Based on this, your news and social media feeds will most likely show you information that is related or similar to your online activity. Your predictable online behaviour makes it easier for bots to creep in and suggest specific fake news to you. To combat this, avoid subscribing to the suggestions that your news and social media feeds present as it will only confirm the information collected about you, highlight your interests and make you a target.

Be certain of the source

Fake news thrives on looking like the real deal, so it’s important to check the integrity of the source. Look for misspellings, added letters or numbers in the domain name or URL (e.g. News24.com versus News24-TV). A quick online search to find information about the author such as their other works or social media profiles helps verify that they are real and if you are reading something that claims to be from an institution or business, confirm that they are registered with the relevant regulatory bodies. Some chancers will try to use an existing business’ logo for clout (and deception).

Consider the context

Unlike legitimate news publications, fake news sites are not concerned with the truth. The motivation is either an agenda or income. These sites make money through ad revenue where increased traffic to their website means an increase in the ad revenue pay-out, so they often make use of believable regulations, policies and/or spokespeople to add credibility to their claims.

Information without context is easy to misconstrue, so it’s important that you consider the date and read the whole article for a better understanding. This will help uncover if the information in question is a recent account of events or bits and pieces of information taken out of context. Quotes from legitimate spokespeople and businesses may be taken out of context, be inserted into an unrelated story, or put into a new fabricated article just for ‘clickbait’ purposes.

Corroborate and listen

Check that the information is present in at least one other reputable media source. There is a chance the news is fake if it is the only source making the claim. Cross-checking the information using reliable sources provides a clearer picture and any discrepancy will be obvious because you have context and insight.

Spotting fake news isn’t always easy, especially when you are passionate about a topic or in a hurry to get updated information. Taking a second to verify the story (even if you find it from a different angle elsewhere) minimizes the chance of sharing fake information and having fake news directed at you.

Individuals operating in financial services particularly need to consistently maintain their credible reputations, which extends to their social media profiles. It is often best to err on the side of caution. Dealing in fake news is not a good look, and remember that once it’s in the public domain, it’s difficult to delete what you have shared.

 

Article by Richard Rattue, Managing Director of Compli-Serve SA