Social media is inundated with stories that are incorrect, outdated or just straight up untrue. Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you don’t get caught out.
Checking images and videos
Whether it’s a fake photo or one that is being used in the wrong context, social media is full of images and videos that are repurposed to make you feel a certain way about an event. This often happens during protests in South Africa when photos circulate of incidences that either didn’t happen in the country or were from a different protest. So before retweeting or sharing, try running the image through something like Google Image search or TinEye. These programmes will bring up other places on the internet where the image is used, which will most likely point to news stories confirming the real location. You can also check the content of the video or image to see if it is correct, look for street signs, car registrations or other details to make sure its set in the correct country.
Often fake news is shared from websites that are geared towards spreading lies. They often present themselves as news sites, making it harder to tell that they aren’t real. One simple website to use is Whois. This search tool will give you details about who the site is registered to, their address and the registration information about the site. Another way to identify a fake site is by looking for clues in their stories. If the story seems somewhat unbelievable, make sure you ask specific questions. Does the URL look dodgy? Is the URL in the right place (.co.za)? Click the lock button next to the site address, this will give you some information about the site. Look out for bad spelling, design errors and slim facts.
Checking for satire
Often people accidentally share satirical news stories as if they are real. These sites intentionally make their content look as though it is a story but will identify themselves as “satire” in their about us section or at the top of the website. So if a story is too funny or good to be true, just check that it’s not just a clever writer making fun of a silly politician.
Another good source to check is who you are sharing or retweeting from. If the account doesn’t have a long posting history, doesn’t have any information about themselves or their profile picture isn’t of their face, then it’s likely that it was created to distribute false information.