Alert! News has recently been leaked from the Deans of Student Restrictions that after years of controversy, late night weekend check-ins have been revoked, allowing boarding students to go back to the dorm at any hour of the night. Believe it? Don’t.
Generations of people, specifically high school students, are easily blinded by the intriguing headlines that surface on many social media platforms (commonly being Facebook and Twitter). Some students carelessly trust an article solely because it includes a picture. There are multiple aspects that factor into the conclusion of whether an article can be categorized as “real” or “fake”, and below are 5 devices to discern the reality of the text.
- Examine URL: Websites with URL’s ending in “.com” or “.org” are generally reliable, but “.com.co” or “.org.co” links are incredibly undependable. The fake story at the beginning of the article does not have a URL, but there are many other ways to determine whether it is true or false.
- Inspect For Grammatical Mistakes: Genuine online newspapers or articles will not include grammar or spelling errors due to their obligation of editing and proofreading. In the fake news story above, there is an extra e in controversy and an overuse of commas.
- Look For Authors Name: Authors always want credit for their work unless the article is a scandal or has the potential of leading to violence. No writer’s name is shown in the forged article!
- Check Sources: Every proper article includes sources at its end and usually contains names and places when speaking of events that have occurred. Always peruse the site and make sure sources are included, as well as finding whether all the names and locations in the text are reliable. Ever heard of the Deans of Student Restrictions? Didn’t think so!
- Use Fact Checking Websites: An easy way to find out if certain articles are trustworthy is by using websites such as realorsatire.com, factcheck.com, or politifact.com. On some you paste the URL of the website you are questioning to find its validity, and on others they list dishonest websites and articles. This is a simple and quick way to distinguish how sincere specific articles are.
Believe it or not, false stories and articles have been published for centuries. In the nineteenth century, the fraudulent features were commonly known as “yellow journalism”. Many people such as Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, have attempted to terminate bogus writing, but the argument against such action is that it goes against an individual’s rights and the first amendment of freedom of speech. That being said, the only path to success in stopping the spread of phony information is to follow the five simple steps presented above.
In addition to those five tactics, always be aware and do not automatically trust an article because one of your friends shared it on Facebook or Twitter. Believing in information and adding on evidence because someone confirmed it, called confirmation bias is an extreme problem in today’s world due to the gullibility of most people.
The diffusion of false stories has the ability of being detrimental to society. In recent news, a conspiracy theory of Hillary Clinton’s campaign being a front for a child sex establishment (“Pizzagate”) led to a bizarre chain of events, which culminated with a man armed with an assault rifle walking into a Washington D.C. pizzeria to “self-investigate” the actuality of the idea. Crazy, but true.
Take away from this the importance of constantly being aware of what you are spending time reading, and never sharing news without scrutinizing it first. With a clear understanding of the negative effect fake articles has on the larger world, use your knowledge to stop writers from publishing misleading stories. Keep your eyes open, and your lie detectors on!