Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to spot Real Fake News

In spite of all of the "safeguards" that Facebook had, someone linked to an "article" (which looked more like a blog) that set off a lot of alarm bells. The only source that it claimed to give was a video that was vaguely related to the article but had nothing to do with the article itself.

A quick search of the details given in the article, the place, the business that was mentioned and I only found links to other "news" sites that have the exact same story. None of them have any sources and it appears they were all copy-pasted from another site that no longer exists. I could not find the business in question or any local news source that had a similar story.

Unfortunately, I can't find the link anymore as the site seemed to have disappeared from the internet. So I can't link to it. However, the story is still on Snopes and labeled as False

I know that known legitimate sites have altered the news to fit whatever narrative that they are trying to portray (I'm looking at you CNN) or sensationalized a rare incident to get people spun up (just about every news outlet out there).

However, "fake news" gets posted on Facebook, still. When Facebook flags it as fake news, people got spun up and accused of Facebook mitigating free speech even though after my research, the article is indeed as fake.

This is nothing new. I don't know how many times I've had to explain that "No, your profile can't be hacked just by going to someone else's profile or friending them", "No, Bill gates will not give a dollar to some charity if you share this image", and "No, you are not going to hell if you don't post Obi-Wan Jesus  or any form of Jesus on your wall."

I have not found the verses in the Bible to collaborate that last one.

The recent "Breaking News" articles are the most annoying. They are fairly recent and sound very plausible, even to a seasoned internet user like me. So how do we tell the difference? Here are some steps you should take (regardless of the source) before posting some sensational piece that turns out later to be misleading if not completely false.

  1. Move your mouse to the link and actually click on it. Don't just assume the article is valid because it has thousands of shares and likes.
  2. Check for sources. A lot of these articles either are a copy-paste from another news site, which is a copy paste from yet another site, which is a copy paste from a known satire news source. Some of these articles do not show any sources at all or link to something that isn't even related to the site.
  3. Google the details. If the article doesn't have a whole lot of details, then check Snopes. Yes, it's supposedly biased to the left, although I have found a lot of left fake news debunked by Snopes. Even if you feel that way, Snopes usually gives more details and sources that you can use to do your own research. When I find a better fact-checking site, then I'll post a blog on that.
  4. If in doubt,  don't post it. You do not have to be a pawn in anyone's game. The fake news posts and heavily edited "legit news" are designed to get you spun up and to perpetuate a narrative that they want to "win". Take a deep breath. You are better than that. Skip it until you have more information.

In order for real change to come, we all need to be informed with real facts. This can't happen until a large percentage of people decide that they will no longer be manipulated like this. In the meantime, do your research and if you find an article that is inaccurate, do your research then say something and post the facts.