Really? How to spot fake news

Sometimes it’s easy to fall for fake news reports or conspiracy theories, especially if they are shared online by someone you know or trust.

In fact, fake news is a bit like a virus, it can spread quickly and easily and can have harmful consequences.

Fake news can spread misinformation or disinformation. Misinformation is false information that wasn’t created with the intention of causing harm, whereas disinformation is false information created with the intention of causing harm.

So how do you know if something is fake news or not? Here are some top tips to help you spot the difference:

1. Use trusted sources

Always check the source of the article and make sure it comes from a well-known, reputable outlet. If you haven’t heard of it, do some investigating. If you’re after accurate information related to COVID-19, use official sources of information such as the covid19.govt.nz, Ministry of Health and Hapai te Hauora websites. 

2. Is the URL dodgy?

Have a look at the URL and see if it looks unusual. Often fake news websites or articles have URLs that contain things like “.co” rather than “.com” or “.co.nz”. Also, check to see if there is an “About us” section on their website.

3. Read the article all the way through

News articles that show up in your social media feeds or that appear on websites are often designed to be “click-bait”. They want you to click on the article, so they often use sensational headlines that may not accurately reflect the article’s contents. By reading the whole article, you can get the full story and not just the eye-catching headline.

4. Compare with other sources

A good way to check if an article is legitimate is to cross-check it with other websites. If several reputable outlets are reporting the same story, then it’s more likely to be accurate.

5. Are there grammatical errors?

If you come across an article riddled with grammatical mistakes or typing errors, such as random capitals letters, then this should be an alarm bell that something is not right.

6. If in doubt, don’t share

Think carefully before you share an article. If you have any doubts about the accuracy or intent of the article, then don’t share it. Remember to trust your instincts, too. If something seems a bit off or doesn’t ring true, then there’s a good chance it may be fake.

7. Are there references or quotes?

Check to see if anybody is quoted in the article and do a Google check to see if they exist. Does the article have any references? This is particularly important if it’s a scientific article. If there aren’t any quotes or references, then it may be fake.

8. Is the article sponsored?

This is really important to check. If somebody is being paid to write the article, there will be a particular angle or message they have to get across. This can result in the article being one-sided or biased. Check at the top or bottom of the article to see whether it’s sponsored or not, and if so, by which organisation.

References

  1. Siouxsie Wiles & Toby Morris: Now let’s flatten the infodemic curve The Spin Off, NZ 
  2. Your news bulletin is here Netsafe, NZ