As much as we love to joke, “If you read it on the internet, it must be true!”, nearly everyone has fallen prey to some type of fake news headline. Even if you discover the information in an article is suspect after reading a couple paragraphs, your click alone may have been enough for the website to receive compensation.
Fake news has become big business and can be quite sophisticated, making it more difficult to discern false stories from legitimate news. Bear in mind that the website of a legitimate news organization will provide information about its mission, staff members, physical location and a means of contact. However, even fake websites may have names that appear legitimate, such as Associated Media Coverage, abcnews.com.co, WTOE 5 News or the Boston Tribune.
Even legitimate mainstream news coverage can be misleading at times. Some publications are prone to cover stories and/or angles geared to a particular audience, so even though the news may not be “fake,” it may present only part of the story. Be aware that the more times you click on questionable headlines you think could be real, the more fake news stories with similar content may be directed your way.
The following are tips to help stop today’s fake news epidemic:
- Read beyond the headline. Sometimes headlines stick in our heads and we repeat them or share them on social media. However, if you read the article before sharing, you may discover the information is iffy.
- Be aware that fake news articles tend to have no author or, worse yet, a fake author with bogus credentials.
- Check the date. Many stories get shared that seem timely but happened in the past.
- Stories that feature excessive exclamation points, capital letters and misspellings are not likely to be legitimate.
- Whenever you have doubts, Snopes.com and FactCheck.org are legitimate websites that expose fake news, so you can check out suspicious news sources.