The creator of fake news wants to influence you. They often hide why they’re trying to persuade you.
They tell deliberate lies – or take no trouble to check the facts. Or maybe the words are true if you read them very carefully, but the facts chosen are unbalanced. You only hear one side of the story so you get a false impression.
Start the Fightback
You don’t even have to get out of your chair. Part of the fake news problem is the attitude of people reading it. Try to be more sceptical about news generally.
According to the Oxford Dictionary a sceptic is: “One who maintains a doubting attitude”. We shouldn’t believe news just because it’s exciting or shocking. We run a few tests in our head. What kind of questions should we ask? Librarians should able to offer good advice. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has published what you see below.
Find a list of other language versions here
Next time you see something sensational you might want to check it against the chart and see whether it passes the tests. What else can help?
Try listening to all sides of an argument, especially if you hold a strong opinion. Even if it doesn’t change your point of view, knowing why others think differently will help you to be clearer on your reasons for thinking as you do.
Of course, you’re not guaranteed to get to the truth that way. Everyone may be distorting the facts even if they don’t mean to. Fact-checking websites may help. These are often run by charities and try to be unbiased (although no human can be completely unbiased).
Other programmes and web content don’t provide fact-checking services but claim to get to the real story behind all the politics and propaganda, so they’re worth a look:
Of course, Twitter has a special place in fake news, but deciding what to believe is no different from anywhere else. Just a note about the “Twitter Verified Account” tick mark. It means Twitter has checked that this person really is who they say they are. It doesn’t mean that everything they tweet is true.
Since you can’t spend all your time fact-checking it’s helpful to improve the quality of news you see. If you find that a site has a bad reputation, you can stay away from it.
List of Fake News Web Sites
Explaining it to the Next Generation
These skills will benefit your kids for life, so here are a few things you could show them (They’re for very young kids and don’t have any sound. I’ll post something better when I find it):
Who Writes the Internet Anyway?
Don’t jump to conclusions, #AskforEvidence
It’s ok to #AskforEvidence
If you want to go deeper into this topic, here are a couple of deep dives:
Podcast: The Ugly Truth (Sense About Science at the British Library)
Editorial: Sky Views: Facebook’s fake news threatens democracy