Fact Or Fake?
**This blog post was written by a student and only slightly edited by our writing crew.**
I can’t stand reading a book that isn’t on paper. There’s just something so rewarding about turning each page of the book and seeing the physical progress you’ve made. However, there is one exception to this quirk. For the life of me, I absolutely cannot do vast amounts of research by pouring through mounds of books. And I’m sure I’m not alone in lacking this ability to find the needle of information I need in the haystack of a massive library. This is where the internet comes into play. With a speedy search of a couple keywords, you can access a plethora of articles on any topic, of an amount which would probably take more time to read than you have before a deadline. But in a world where information can be accessed at our fingertips, there is one word that stops any tidbit of findings from ever being totally accepted: FAKE.
It’s no surprise that fake, fraud, or alternative news has a big impact on how people look for information and trust what they read. But after the recent election, “fake news” has emerged as a double-edged sword. Not only are we unaware of the validity of the things we read, but some people are using the tactics of labeling news as fake whenever they disagree with it. But here’s the thing: facts aren’t partisan. With the inflation of fake news, many people are at a loss on who and what to trust, especially on social media.
When it comes to social media and fake news, Facebook is at the forefront of trying to ensure its users that what they are reading is accurate. During the 2016 Presidential Election, Facebook faced an abundance of news sharing activity, with fake news interactions being more numerous than interactions with mainstream news sources according to a BuzzFeed News Analysis by Craig Silverman. Now, Facebook is flagging news it marks as “disputed” through third party fact-checking services like Snopes.com and PolitiFact. More information on how this process works can be found in a USA Today article from March 2017, “Facebook begins flagging ‘disputed’ (fake) news.”
So how can you decipher the facts from fiction?
First and foremost, it is important to understand that some “news sites” are satirical and aren’t meant to be taken seriously, such as The Onion or ClickHole. The easiest way to avoid these is to search for information through a database rather than a web browser. But, if you aren’t sure whether a site is satirical or not, read the full article and look at some of their other articles, paying attention to who they are citing. Most satirical news sites use outlandish or irrelevant sources to try to point out that they aren’t valid.
Other things to check on any site include the web address — you should especially watch out for the ones that end in “.com.co” — or the contact information, which should always have the address of a business, not a personal residence.
My favorite check is to look for corrections that the news company posts about any past publications. It shows that the media site holds itself high in credibility, and admits when it has made a mistake. Bottom line, always cross check the information with other sources.
A more thorough and complete guide on how to spot fake news can be found at FactCheck.org.
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Smart Girl Society, Inc., is an Omaha-based nonprofit working to educate and inspire smart & confident girls, women, & families. Through educational workshops, civil outreach programs, and technology & social media research, we work with girls, parents, & educators to authenticity on social media and in real life. We educate how to remain safe on social media and how to avoid becoming a target of sextortion. We also inspire action for students to focus on their personal brand development, leadership, educational opportunities, and healthy social skills. Interested in learning more? Check us out!