Don't Believe Everything You See Online -- How to Spot 'Fake News'

By Marina Krivonossova on November 16, 2020

“Don’t believe everything you see online.” We’ve all heard it said a million times. And rightfully so, because today, those words are truer than ever before. With the plethora of information available at just the click of a button, it becomes more and more difficult to discern reality from fiction, and opinion from fact.

With the topics of the US election and the worldwide battle against COVID-19 making headlines on virtually every news and social media platform, we are bound to be influenced one way or another, particularly by the words that shock or surprise us. However, it’s important to remember that the goal of media outlets is to evoke some sort of response — whether it be positive or negative — from readers and viewers. This is often done through a process of contorting facts, manipulating statistics, and sharing only partially accurate information. The situation gets even more difficult when you take into account all the conspiracy theorists, biased bloggers, and uneducated individuals sharing their own approaches to situations taking place in the world. You’re left confused and wondering — whom can I trust?

So, what can you do to protect yourself from falling victim to the traps of the news media, social media, and general social media users? Here are some tips and tricks to consider before you indiscriminately accept the next media headline that pops up on your screen.

Many news media outlets lose reliability the moment people start doing even a bit of their own research on published topics (image via Danya on pexels.com)

1. Check the source. The most important thing you should do before believing the information you see online is looking at who posted it. If you’re reading somebody’s blog, make sure to research that individual to see if they’re truly a reliable source when it comes to the field about which they’re writing. Do the same thing if you’re scouring social media outlets for information since many people posting there are likely to be unreliable as well. When it comes to information shared by the news media, research that outlet to learn about its biases and information sharing history. Many news media outlets — though popular and established — are well-known for their biases, fake news postings, and much more. Always keep in mind that just because a person or a website is popular, it doesn’t mean that the reputation they hold is positive.

2. Check the cited information. Go beyond checking whether the source providing you with information is reliable by checking the sources they themselves cite. If you’re reading claims made by a news media outlet, and you don’t see them citing any government websites, scholarly journals, etc., then it’s safe to say they might not be sharing the most reliable information. The same goes for social media, bloggers, and every other potential source of online information. If they’re not referencing objective, factual, or scientific publications, then perhaps they’re not the most trustworthy source of information on the topic at hand.

Don’t believe everything you see online; always fact check and do your own research (image via Canva on pexels.com)

3. Cross-reference multiple sources. So, you’ve read what one website or person says about a certain topic. But is that enough? The short answer is “no.” You should research the given topic further to see what other websites and individuals are writing about it. If a Facebook post tells you that a 100% effective COVID-19 vaccine has been found, you might be quick to rejoice. Before you do that, however, Google the topic some more and see what others are saying. Are other news media outlets sharing the same information, or are they sharing something different? Are scholars and scientists posting about how exciting of a finding this is, or are they staying silent? Perhaps they’re even writing their own information to disprove this ludicrous claim. If you notice that the information shared by multiple sources isn’t lining up, it’s time to dig deeper and find more relevant and reliable information.

It’s more important now than ever to approach the information we find online with skepticism. Media outlets and online posters feed off people who blindly accept information without fact-checking it themselves. Don’t let yourself become an easily fooled target by falling victim to this. The Internet is great for finding information, but it’s also the perfect tool to fool incompetent users. How do you protect yourself from false information online?

By Marina Krivonossova

Uloop Writer
Now that she has completed her undergraduate degree at UC Irvine and graduate degree at Leiden University, Marina is spending her time working in corporate communications and marketing. She has an educational background in business, economics, teaching, and politics. Her passions include creative writing, experimenting with new baking recipes, and traveling the world.

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