Fake news can cause harm in many ways. Generally, they can diminish the confidence in all news reporting, even serious ones, which in turn can hurt the society. Another consequence of fake news is that people can be deceived into making decisions or acting in a way that is in line with the agenda of the creators of the fake news. Regardless, most people agree that it is desirable to minimize fake news as much as possible because of their unwanted consequences.
Minimize fake news from a larger perspective
On the Internet, fake news has created a stalemate. On the one hand, there are people, organizations and interests that consciously want to mislead people through false statements. Reasons frequently include making money, fulfilling one’s agenda or driving public opinion, but it can also be about entertainment and satire. On the other hand, there are individuals and organizations that are consciously working to fight fake news, reducing the harm that it causes and informing people about how they can avoid being fooled. Even internet giants such as Facebook and Twitter have pledged to invest more resources into preventing the spreading of fake news.
Among others, Wikipedia lists fact-checking pages that can help you assess the credibility of a news article. If you suspect that a news item might be fake, it’s a good idea to check it on one of these pages. If the news is not completely fresh, there is a good chance that it has been reviewed by a fact-checker.
6 steps to minimize fake news
No matter what is going on in a larger perspective, you yourself can take steps to avoid being fooled by fake news. Greater awareness and a critical mind are the best line of defense against fake news. Here are 6 easy steps you can take to reduce fake news and the spreading of it.
- Be critical. If the news is perceived as spectacular or too incredible, it probably is. Check the source to make sure that you can trust it. Even news which at first sight are plain and normal can be worth checking.
- Search the news. If it’s a known fake, fact-checks will be shown among the results at Google, Bing, Duckduckgo and others. A simple image search can also show if the image is displayed in its proper context or if it’s a stock photo.
- Fact-check the news. This you can do yourself by checking with a fact-checker or by simply finding out the facts yourself. Sites such as Factlab can easily and quickly tell you if the statistics referred to is correct or not.
- Count to 10. Fake news is often created to make you angry or upset so that you act fast and spread the news. Therefore, take a deep breath and try to look at the news critically and sensibly.
- If you are unsure: don’t share it, don’t like it, don’t comment on it, or if it’s about facts refer to valid facts on Factlab. You do not want to help spread news that could possibly be fake.
- If you are sure the news is fake, never add fuel to the fire by starting to comment on or dislike it. The algorithms of Facebook and others can interpret your commitment as the news being interesting and worth spreading to more people.
Download our checklist “12 ways to identify fake news”
Hands on advice
With our handy checklist you get hands on advice in how to spot fake news. You will learn:
- What are common warning signs?
- How can format and quality help you identify fake news?
- How do you develop a source critical approach?
- How and where can you fact check an article?