When fake news and misinformation transform from mere sporadic and haphazard content to organized and systematic news, they can become targeted campaigns with the potential to disrupt governments, democratic transitions, and governance in entire countries.

The lack of awareness and understanding when it comes to online news, especially on social media websites, have created the perfect ground for manipulation, rumors, misinformation, and fake news to spread. This was something that began to be of increasing concern for me.

We have all come across news in social media posts and thought, “how could someone believe such a thing?”, “why do people share posts without verifying the source?”.

Facebook for instance has been issuing multiple reports on “Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior CIB”, stating that they removed hundreds of pages, accounts, groups, events, etc. These fake accounts are usually taken down for masquerading as locals in the countries they target and posting content that can manipulate public debate, mainly before any major democratic elections.

These reports reflect the motives and the harm that fake news on social media can pose, not only on individuals but also on whole nations.

What are some of the types of fake news and/or misinformation?

Satire or parody: this content usually does not intend to cause harm but may be considered a credible source of news for some people.
Misleading content: using information and news in a misleading manner to frame an individual or an issue.
Fabricated content: completely false information meant to manipulate and cause harm.
Manipulating content: genuine information or images used to manipulate and influence readers.
False connection: headlines or image thumbnails not reflecting the real content of the news.

How can we fight fake news and misinformation?

Look closely at the source and the content: Who is sharing the information? Is it a verified page? Is it a news outlet I can trust? When was this page or account created? Does it demonstrate bot-like behavior? Look closely at the content and try a reverse image search. Using a tool like RevEye or Google Seach by Image, you can find out about any previous instances of any image that you see online.
Look for other sources: Found the news on a Facebook page or a news outlet? Look for other sources, preferably an internationally recognized news agency.
Read beyond the title: Headlines can be misleading sometimes, make sure you read the content after verifying if the link is legit.
Check the author affiliation: Do a quick search on the writer, are they credible, are they known to be affiliated to a certain party or movement?
Is it a satire website?: Some satire websites are unfortunately sometimes considered as reliable sources, make sure you read the “About Us” section of the website.
What about your biases?: Would your own beliefs or affiliations affect your judgment?
Create a list of reliable sources you can always refer to for news: If looking for local news, make sure you only follow pages you know would be credible and reliable. For example, local radios, local news agencies, etc…

What tools can we use to identify fake news?
The good news is there are many tools to help you identify fake news stories and headlines. If you suspect that a piece of news could be fake or misleading, use the fact-checking resources in the link below to see if they have looked into that headline or story. 
Tools that fight disinformation by Rand.org.
However, always keep in mind these are only tools and they do not replace your own critical analysis. 





Thumbnail photo from pexels.com