Recently I watched a video by photojournalist Damaso Reyes for the News Literacy Project as he spoke to students about ways to spot fake news. In the lecture by Reyes, he identifies six simple checks on reality that everyone can follow in judging the news they see on line.
I’ve explored his points here:1
A name is not a name:
Fake news sites often try to create a URL that is similar to one you are familiar with. For instance, the site www.nationalreport.net plays off the long standing reputation of the National Review founded by conservative icon, William F. Buckley in 1991.2
Don’t judge a book – or article- by its cover… Go further.
Before you buy off on the news you see in a shared article, go to the website itself and read other articles. Does the website offer content that meets the standards of quality journalism. IE: Are the headlines neutral or sensationalized. An example Reyes gives of the ways fake news agitates for more views is this headline: “Irish rocker of U2 colludes with elites to remove president.”
If the headline/ image raises your blood pressure – it also raises a red flag.3
Does the information ‘package’ (headline, photo, text) create an immediate emotion like ‘really sad, really mad or laughing out loud”? These are red flags because they serve to ‘short circuit’ your logic center or ability to think.
Who is the Author. No one is named Admin.4
Got to the source. Who wrote the piece? No one has ever been named Admin. Find out who is writing the piece. It is easy to look up the author of the article and by clicking on their name you can find what else they have done. If the author is only listed as ‘admin’ you don’t know the who is writing the content. Is there an author of the article?
What are the sources? No one is named “scientists” – They have names for a reason.5
What are the article sources? It is not enough to say “scientists say.” The question you should ask is who is the scientists saying this and what are they basing their statements on. Does the article drill down and give you this information? This is an all too common way of spreading fake news. One in which “a lot of people keep repeating the same information, but nobody has verified it.”
As Reyes says, journalists working for quality news platforms depend on verifiable sources which have demonstrated expertise in the field.
Seeing should no longer be Believing.6
Are images accurate? The ability to mis-use images to spread fake news or false narratives is growing. For instance someone can post a photo from three years ago and say this is happening now. We saw this in the coverage of recent hurricanes. However using a reverse image search on google you can find out when an image was originally used and who shared it. That can give you important tips as to whether or not the image is original and what its original context was.
The News Literacy Project was launched in 2008 to teach news literacy skills to students in grades 6 through 12. As NLP notes:
A Stanford University study published in November 2016 found that more than 7,800 middle school, high school and college students in 12 states were unable to assess the credibility of the information that floods their smartphones, tablets, and computers — despite their aptitude for digital and social media.
Since launching, NLP has reached more than 25,000 students and partnered with news organizations and journalists to share their expertise and experience and in 2016 launched a cutting-edge e-learning platform used by more than 2,000 teachers : checkology™ virtual classroom.