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[IMPORTANT NOTICE] How to spot a fake news story

In this post-truth age of fake news and ‘alternative facts’, you have to be careful who you trust online.

Picture: Pixabay.com

Due to the increase in fake news stories in South Africa and beyond, we urge you to be more vigilant.

Fake news peddlers are taking the problem to new levels and will stop at nothing to confuse, befuddle and downright bamboozle you into sharing their 💩.

Don’t fall victim to half-truths, propaganda or lies.

Stay alert and help prevent the spread of potentially damaging misinformation.

BEWARE OF FAKE NEWS!

In this post-truth age of fake news and ‘alternative facts’, you have to be careful who you trust online…

Otherwise, you might find yourself believing that Desmond Tutu has died (he hasn’t), Osama bin Laden is still alive (he isn’t) or that the Simpsons really did predict that Donald Trump would become US president (they didn’t).

But how can you tell when news is real or not?

CHECK YOUR SOURCES

One of the easiest ways to make sure the story you’re reading is legitimate is to check its URL and domain name. A quick look at a website’s ‘About’ page will also give you a good idea of whether it’s reputable.

Keep in mind the reputation that a news source enjoys – is it known to be a tabloid that plays fast and loose with the truth, or is it a trustworthy news agency that deals with facts only?

Check out other stories published by the same company to ensure it isn’t taking you for a ride. Then check the story you’re reading against others posted by reputable news sources to see if they add up.

Check the time stamp on the article you’re reading; if it was published way back in 2008 but is still being shared as a ‘new’ or ‘breaking’ news story, it’s definitely fake.

Don’t trust websites you don’t know. Pages that are plastered with sensational stories and loads of advertising (most of it porn) probably aren’t legit.

ADD A HEALTHY DOSE OF SCEPTICISM

Don’t automatically believe what you read, especially if it’s a story that seems designed to be inflammatory or to spark some kind of strong emotion in you.

Look for evidence in the story itself that backs up the claims being made. Often, you’ll notice that there simply isn’t any.
Keep an eye out for outrageous or obviously contrived quotes, anonymous sources only or a complete lack of quotes in a story. These are all red flags.

Beware your own confirmation bias, which can draw you to stories that reinforce the way you see the world. Don’t just stick to news that shores up your own position; make sure to spend some time outside of your comfort zone, exposing yourself to diverse viewpoints.

Sometimes, a quick Google search is all it takes to check whether you’ve been hoodwinked by urban legend, clumsy satire or a fake news story. If it sounds too good (or bad) to be true, it probably is.

RESIST THE LURE OF CLICK-BAIT

Read past the headline before you hit ‘share’ – make sure that the story matches up to the headline
Resist the urge to click on headlines that are clearly designed to be click-bait. That’s how fake news peddlers make their money.

Don’t just believe anything that starts with “You won’t believe…”

SLAY IT, DON’T SPRAY IT

(In other words, share responsibly.)

An effective way of combatting fake news is simply to prevent it from spreading on social media. Don’t share articles you haven’t properly read, just because they make an overall point that you happen to agree with.

Make sure you’re part of the solution, not part of the problem.

A LIST OF FAKE NEWS SITES IN SOUTH AFRICA

(Note: fake news sites are popping up as fast as they’re being taken down, so this is not a complete list.)

Daily Buzz SA
African News Updates
iMzansi
Live Monitor
News-24 TV
CitySun
Gossip Mill Mzansi
South Africa Latest News
Viralbru
Pretoria Live
Celebgossip
National News Bulletin

**EDITOR'S NOTE: **

A 'fake news' story (i.e. a story that is baseless and untrue, often created with the express intention to mislead) is very different from the issue of journalistic error (a legitimate news story that contains incorrect facts). Sometimes, even the professionals get it wrong. If you spot any errors or inconsistencies in an EWN story, please let us know by mailing us on editor@ewn.co.za.

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Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

EWN is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

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