Technological advances have given us one of the greatest gifts in humanity, a faster and better variety of media that bridged us to the rest of the world. We are able to reach places and audiences that we couldn’t have reached and we can do the things that we upon ourselves couldn’t have done with the help of certain information.
This has a massive effect on our lives, considering that most of us spend several hours a day using our mobile phone alone. It directly influences our style, our culture and how we perceive the world. Sadly, the massive amount of information is so overwhelming that we ourselves are unaware of just how precarious our situation is.
The fact that we have relied so much on the information posted online that the line between reality and false information gets blurry. What’s worse is the exploiters also have the power and influence to disseminate information which is most of the times irrelevant and harmful for the internet and its users.
There is a saying that ignorance won’t excuse you from the law, but it also won’t excuse you of being a victim.
Here are some things that you have to know about fake news. In order for you to distinguish fake news from facts, you will get an edge by informing yourself of what to look out for.
Distinguishing the Fake from the Facts
Fake news had been around for as long as we can remember, but what fake news really? The definition is self-explanatory. It is anti-news, meaning it contains the type of information that is false and/or intentionally deceiving. It comes on many forms, shapeshifting its way into mass media. As time goes by, it is getting harder and harder to spot since there are a lot of competing news sites on the internet and some contradict each other. Their competitiveness had also made their stories so outrageous that you can’t really tell whether it is fake or not.
Here are the common types of fake news to look out for:
- Satire or Parody – This is the type of fake news that is made to appeal to humor. This usually spreads due to the understanding that people will get the joke within the context, but this could still potentially deceive a person.
- Misleading news that’s sort of true but used in the wrong context – These are selectively chosen facts that are real but rearranged and misinterpreted. Words may be twisted, or the truths are a bit stretched out. These types are usually the cause of clickbait since they are more realistic than the satire
- Sloppy reporting that fits an agenda – This is similar to the second, the difference being that it is a collection of facts (which may not be facts at all) without verification and use it to justify a claim without fact checking but kept it since it supports the claim of the article.
- Misleading news that’s not based on facts, but supports an on-going narrative – This type of news is where there is no established baseline where ideologies and opinions are used as “truths” unconscious biases come into play. They are usually “justified” due to a certain famous person that has supported the information, but it remains false. Conspiracy theories are included here.
- Intentionally deceptive – This is the one to look out for. This is when news that has been fabricated for a malicious purpose either by making money, to cause confusion or discontent, or sensationalist propaganda which can either build or destroy a person or an individual. These stories tend to happen in both established news sites to the smaller, many independent sites. They can either be paid to do so, or they themselves do this because they can.
Now that you’re informed to what look out for, fact checking will be your greatest weapon in information literacy.
Here are some tips on how to do it:
- When checking the data, always look at the source. Are the site and their sources reliable? What are the author/s credentials? Are they even allowed to report such type of news? This alone can totally defile a bogus news report. But if it passes through, you’re going to have to go even further.
- Analyze the data itself. Figure out what they are trying to tell you, or the purpose of the article (to inform, to persuade, to entertain, etc) and how it affects you emotionally (the emotions that it convey) and mentally (views and opinions). Do your own research about the topic to verify the data itself. Also, see into it that the data included are supporting each other and are valid points.
- After analyzing the article, you must evaluate how the message is projected and if there are hidden and underlying agenda behind it.
- It is also suggested that being a critical reading can help you in this kind of situation. The more you know about certain topics and is critical in which information to be believed, finding resources and second opinions regarding the information are very helpful in fact-checking.
- Once you have distinguished that the information conveyed is fake news, refrain from sharing it.
Guides in User-generated Content
Now, let’s reverse the situation. What if you are the one creating the content? It is important for the creators themselves to create content that is truthful, respectful and carefully researched in order to avoid conflicts and faux pas.
In connection to this, the number one enemy of information literacy is plagiarism, which is the act of stealing or copying someone’s content without crediting the source. People usually do this due to the fear of failure or fear taking risks, poor time-management skills or just plain negligence. When you aren’t that sure about a certain topic, always consult a second opinion. When using other people’s words or ideas, it is an acceptable practice for writers to use certain kinds of texts, but always make sure to acknowledge or ask the permission of the author and follow the proper ethics in doing so.