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Campaigning for facts

Tips and Techniques to Spot Fake News

Hello, my name is Peter, a physicist by profession based in Switzerland and I’m campaigning for facts!  

It is undeniable that we live in a world with many “alternative facts”, where misleading news stories are the new norms, as such it’s not always easy to discern factually inaccurate news stories. 

Furthermore, when people are overloaded with new information, they tend to rely on less-than-ideal coping mechanisms to distinguish good from bad and end up privileging popularity over quality.

Today I will be sharing with you simple techniques and tips to spot fake, false news and alternative facts in your social media timeline 

First, let’s define the type of fake news we are faced with: 

Fake news is the general term used for all false and misleading information. A general definition of Fake news would be –  a news story that is fake at its core because it uses false or unprovable information, from unreliable sources including conspiracy theories and or fabricated quotes. 

Whether it is created as a source of deliberate misinformation, propaganda, or just clickbait it is still fake news. 

Experts do however now recommend avoiding the term ‘fake news’, or at least limiting its use, as the term ‘fake news’ is closely associated with politics, and this association can unhelpfully narrow the focus of the issue. The term ‘false information’ is preferable as it can refer to a diverse range of disinformation covering topics such as health, environmental, and economics across all platforms and genres, while ‘fake news’ is more narrowly understood as political news stories.

 A good example of a popular false news story is the story of Bill Gates intending to secretly implant microchips in people using the coronavirus vaccine. 

Now false news in the digital world comes under different formats with multiple goals.  

Starting with the popular Clickbaits which consist of stories that are deliberately fabricated to gain more website visitors and increase advertising revenue for websites. 

Clickbait stories like most false information stories use sensationalist headlines to grab attention and drive click-throughs to the publisher’s website, normally at the expense of truth or accuracy.

The other type of false information is Disinformation, which is deliberately created and spread in order to influence the public opinion or obscure the truth. Oftentimes, it has political or economic motivations behind it. A good example of disinformation is the anti-COVID-19 vaccines campaigns created by some alternative medical practitioners such as naturopaths and homeopaths to sell products as an alternative to the vaccine. 

Misinformation meanwhile is a piece of false or inaccurate information that is mistakenly or inadvertently created then spread. Not intended originally to deceive the readers.

Mal-information – Information that is based on reality, but has been manipulated to inflict harm on a person, organization, or country. The hope of the creator is to spread fear or hate. 

HOW DOES FAKE NEWS SPREAD?

Social media is our friend but also our enemy! Despite the new regulations and fact-checkers efforts, social media remains a hugely problematic vehicle for fake news creators, divisive messaging and harmful movements.

It is a fact that Social Media business models are based on keeping you on their platforms by means of showing you inciting, emotional and/or seemingly spectacular content, images, and videos. The more shocking the information, the more it goes viral.

 Chances are, Internet users will have a feeling of immediacy and will not check the information. This is how most fake news is spread, and once they are out there on the Internet, there is no turning back. 

HOW DOES A SOCIAL MEDIA ALGORITHM WORK AND HOW DO YOU END UP IN AN ECHO-CHAMBER? 

The truth is fake news campaigns and strategies have multiple layers, facets and techniques. They are well orchestrated targeted campaigns often using dedicated bot farms to deliver and reinforce their messaging. I will however explain the bot farms and messages analysis in detail in another video. While here I would like to highlight how you find yourself in an echo-chamber. 

The real influence of social media is not only down to algorithms nor amplification as focus elements. The most significant harm comes from your first connection, and the capacity to plug into the thoughts of people you know, something that wasn’t possible in the past. 

An example: Let’s say you’re fully vaccinated against COVID, you fully trust the science, and you’re doing what health officials have advised, no problems, no concerns about the process. But then you see a post from your old friend – let’s call him ‘Georges’ – in which Georges expresses his concerns about the vaccine, and why he’s hesitant to get it or shares an anti-vaccine joke, a meme, a sensational video from a fake victim or a piece of information by a self-proclaimed scientist or a doctor. 

You may not have spoken to Georges for years, but you like him, you respect his opinion. Suddenly, this isn’t a faceless, nameless activist that you can easily dismiss, this is somebody that you know, and it makes you question whether there may be more to the anti-vax push than you thought. Georges never seemed stupid, nor gullible, maybe you should look into it some more.

So you do – you read links posted by your friend Georges, you check out posts and articles, maybe you even browse a few groups to try and better understand. Maybe you start posting comments on anti-vax articles too, and all of this tells Facebook’s algorithms that you’re interested in this topic and that you’re increasingly likely to engage with similar posts. The recommendations begin to change in your feed, you become more involved with the topic, and all of this drives you further to one side of the argument or the other, fueling division.

NOW THAT YOU KNOW HOW THE ALGORITHM WORK, HERE ARE SOME KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHENEVER YOU ARE FACED WITH A NEW PIECE OF INFORMATION 

Emotional emotional emotional content, beware of emotional content! 

False information relies a lot on emotional and sensational content techniques since emotional stories are often accepted without being questioned, and remembered for a longer period. Especially native videos including a personalized dramatization of an event. Who doesn’t remember seeing a video of an individual having a life-threatening seizure after receiving a vaccine. Of course, it was proven to be fake afterwards. 

Second, always track the original source of the post you see: The source of the information is essential to determine its credibility.  Who is the creator of the information? If it is an individual or a recognizable news site?

 If it is an individual, is he/she using a fake name or a real one? It is also important to determine the author’s legitimacy: is he/she an expert or not in the subject matter or an influencer aiming to generate likes.

 If it is a news site,  what is the nature of the site and its publisher? Is the site reliable online news, social media, or a blog. What is the general tone of the site? Does it belong to a foreign group, a political party, a company, or an individual? 

Third, check out the quality of the information provided in this post or original article, does it provide facts or a personal opinion? If it claims to present facts, track the sources of these facts and raw data. if it includes quotes, look for the original quotes. If the post, article or video do not provide the sources, then this must be your major red flag. 

Fourth, google the information to see if it has been posted on other sites? It is important to compare and cross sources. This makes it possible to see if the information is present on other platforms and to see how it is analyzed elsewhere.

Fifth, Take a second and think about the ultimate goal of this information and its hidden messaging. Does it aim to sell, to inform, to campaign, to convince, to manipulate, to scare or to create the buzz?

Finally Carefully scrutinize photos and other media that accompany the stories: A favorite technique of fake news purveyors is the use of eye-catching images or videos. If the image is the story, use a service such as TinEye to conduct a reverse image search

As you can see these fact-checking tools are simple and crucial to ensuring our right to make well-informed decisions.  This was all today, Stay tuned for upcoming fact-checking videos 

Also please share with us any posts or information that you doubt and you would like to have it fact-checked. 

Thank you


Wir arbeiten hart daran, Ihnen die neuesten faktengeprüften Informationen und Tools zur Verfügung zu stellen. Spenden Sie jedes Mal, wenn Sie Desinformationen lesen, und das Geld wird für die Bezahlung einer Anzeige zur Überprüfung der Fakten verwendet!

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