Spotting Scams and Finding Fakes: Your Guide to Fact Checking
If you’re creating, consuming, or sharing content, you need to be able to spot shoddy ‘facts’. Adding your name (or your business’s name) to content with inconsistencies or inaccuracies – or ‘fake news’ – immediately drops your credibility and your audience’s trust level.
While publications spreading bad information is not a new phenomenon (it has been an issue since before the internet existed), there are a few reasons it’s popping up as a big deal now:
- With the internet, anyone can create misleading or dishonest content
- It’s easy to distribute this content through social platforms and blogs
- Reader sharing is fast and easy.
Why does “bad” content get so much engagement?
The whole point of almost anything you watch, read or listen to is to evoke an emotional response. In a perfect world, everything you consume would stir an emotion in you.
Of course, most people rely on standard literary devices like classic narratives or use of language/imagery to achieve this. Some content creators, though, embellish a little more than is ethical.
For example: Facebook will be CHARGING users from next month!
This one makes the rounds reasonably often. It’s designed to make people angry, it’s created to be shared, and it’s completely fabricated.
In many cases, the lack of truth is what gives the post its virality – when the (mis)information is provocative enough, it doesn’t need to be eloquent or well-written to get readers emotionally charged.
Separating fact from fiction
Evaluate your source
Did you just share a ‘news’ story from The Onion or Natural News alongside genuine outrage or excitement? Sorry, but you must be new to the internet.
Before you even start to critically analyse the content you read, make sure you know who’s behind the words. Some publications, like genuine news sites or government departments, get instant credibility, and others should be on your radar as satire or untrustworthy sources.
For everything in between, Google is your friend.
Research the topic on myth-busting sites
See something that seems semi-legit and want to get informed before sharing? Check up on that latest Trump resignation news on faithful myth-buster sites like Snopes so you don’t end up looking like a fool with that article on your Facebook timeline.
Use your damn common sense
Does the news seem too good to be true? Does it make sense for a big company to give away crazy dream homes or millions of dollars’ worth of holidays? No? Then it’s probably a hoax. Sorry ‘bout it.
Create a library of trustworthy sources for research
If you’re creating content regularly, it’s worth having some valuable information collection points on hand. Reputable news sources, peer-reviewed journals, and high-quality blogs written by people in the know can all be great to have bookmarked, so spend some time searching industry-relevant topics to build your collection of sources.
Before you think about sharing that article about the woman who trained squirrels to attack her ex-bf, never forget the time we all freaked out about our star signs changing.
Don’t worry – NASA wouldn’t betray us like that.