QUICK POLL: By a show of hands, who has Facebook? You... you... you... and, yeah, let's say everyone! Surely, you have heard the clamoring about all the "fake news" stuffed into your timeline by now.
It was only a matter of time before the TMZing of the news caught up with journalists and pseudo-journalists. Everyone is trying to be first. Very few care about being right. This is why fake news garners 18-inch headlines these days -- because it's easy to see a sensationalist headline, break out in a cold sweat, and post post post!
There has been so much angst about "respected folk" getting burned by these trumped-up stories (yeah, we may get to him later) that the Hoodie at Facebook had to release a statement assuring his 1.8 billion global users that stories in their timelines are authentic. You know, for the most part.
Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.
Thanks Mark. Although it has been reported that both Google and Facebook have fallen victim to the fake news trolls many times, readers have to be much more keen to what makes a "authentic" story and how to spot a fake one.
#ListicleAlert: Here are 6 surefire ways to spot fake news in your timeline.
Read More Than the Headline. In this knee-jerk, drive-thru, yelling-at-the-microwave-because-two-minutes-is-too-damn-long-to-nuke-a-frozen-pizza world we live in, we have to do better than aiming our misguided and jaded opinion at the world via social media because of 10-12 errant words at the beginning of a blog post. If you are really interested in that headline, read the story. You would be shocked at the amount of crap you are shoveling to others by simply forwarding from the headline. Furthermore, that headline could have nothing to do with the text, but how would you (and your sheepish pals online) know if you don't read the story? Friends don't let friends read stupid. They just let them act like it from time-to-time.
Verify the Information. I know all that pesky research is so time consuming, what with the answers you need only being mere seconds away from your fingertips and all, but seriously... research before you recite. Even if you have a hunch, just an inkling, about something being off-base, check out the competitors. The Internet is full of them, and most of them are reporting the same stuff within seconds. Google is making it easy for everyone (see image). And if that doesn't work, there's always FactCheck, Snopes, or even Politifact (most of the fake news has been "trumped-up"... yes, that pun was intended). Who else is reporting about a huge iguana wearing a pantsuit on Capitol Hill? I assure you that kind of news would gain a tweet or two.
Figure the Source. Many trolls use this vantage point to really skew the credibility of a fake story. Someone with a beef against the human creamsicle left under the couch to collect cat hair, Donald Trump, may get a story from MSNBC saying he is appearing in Kanye West's latest video because they were seen together recently. Even though people who work there would love to break out a story as ridiculous as that (and let's not pretend Fox hasn't done that with Hillary), trolls know that people will believe just about anything. And that's how it gets started -- a little imagination, a little more Photoshop, and a lot of ignorance via social media. If you don't know the URL, source of the story, or even the country from where this is being reported, odds are, you live in fantasyland and you need to take the batteries of your mouse before you hurt yourself.
Reverse the Image. Admittedly, this takes some work. Remember this infamous image from 9-11? This went viral before social media stole the term from the common cold. Everyone saw it. Many reported on it. All were fooled by it. Snopes would later debunk this image for many reasons, but you can do it yourself with one of two easy tools. Find the image's original source by using either TinEye or Google Reverse Image search. This will help you determine if this really is a national news source or some fool hanging in his mom's garage surrounded by his Star Trek figures (all in the packages of course).
Who's the Author? Typically, a byline on a major source will offer a name that is hyperlinked to his or her own folder on the website to showcase previous stories from that reporter, or create an avenue to where that person is easily identified as one of the team. If you think something is slightly screwy about the author's name, no link or title within the organization, a simple Web search will snuff that out instantly. Most reporters will have a LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram channel to verify who they are. If not, maybe - just maybe - the article 'Rusty Bedsprings' by I.P. Nightly may be a hoax waiting for you to get fooled.
Check your Bias. This is often a factor when discussing fake news, so it's not like we are breaking any new ground here. However, it bears repeating. There's a reason more than half of the fake news stories you read (from either side of the aisle) are political in nature -- because half of the country wants that scathing headline to be true. Dictators are successful because believe propaganda. No one does research. No one asks questions. No one talks about uncertainty. And everyone is due for some diligence. It's hard to read, hear, or watch things objectively, but today, we have to do that to understand what's really going on in the world today.
Don't read the news, and you're uninformed. Read the news, and you'll be misinformed. ~Mark Twain
There's a reason why quotes become famous in the first place. They're true. Much like the news we should all be consuming.