Why It’s So Hard to Spot Fake News & What You Can Do About It

Never share stuff online without looking at where it came from.

Yeah, you, the one who just shared that story promising to destroy the political career of the politician you hate the most. I know, it’s so tempting, but seriously, look at the website it links to. Have you ever heard of Raw Story or Breitbart winning a Pulitzer for its journalism prowess? Hell, have you heard of it at all? Is it associated with a reputable news source? No? Then you might want to fact check that shit before sharing. Politifact and Snopes are good places to start your fact checking. I like to run a search for “fact check HEADLINE TEXT HERE and see what comes up.

How to Tell if a Source is Credible

Stop trying to tell your friends those articles from The Onion are fake.

The only thing worse than failing to recognize fake news is failing to tell the difference between fake news and satire. The more outrageous/funny it is, the more likely it is to be satire, which is fake news intended to be funny and so exaggerated that the publisher assumes no one will be stupid enough to think it’s real.

DON’T SHARE SOMETHING JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT IT TO BE TRUE.

I understand the temptation, I really do. Every day I see articles screaming click-baity headlines like, “This Could Be the End of Donald Trump’s Career,” and holy SHIT do I wish that was real. HOWEVER, I am painfully aware of the vast gulf between what I want and what’s actually reality. (Case in point: My continued failure to win the lottery.)

HOW TO SPOT FAKE NEWS: HEADLINES

The fact is that real journalists don’t write sensationalist headlines. Now, I know this because I have degrees in both broadcast journalism and advertising/public relations, and have worked for TV stations, newspapers, and magazines. Unfortunately, the average news consumer doesn’t have that background.

DON’T BELIEVE THINGS YOU HEAR ON TV AND REPEAT THEM ONLINE WITHOUT BOTHERING TO FACT CHECK.

What, did you think fake news was limited to click-baity headlines on Facebook? No way. Do not repeat stuff you heard on Faux News — er, Fox News — without fact-checking. Or any of the other cable networks, but especially Faux News.

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