Let's talk about fake news.
The term, known by many as of recently, has been used for a long time.
I mean, honestly... do you know anyone who actually wants to hear or read fake news? I don't... or at least I hope I don't. Anyway, unfortunately, fake news is spread quite often. From my experience, a lot of fake news is actually spread by people who don't even know they're spreading it. Yikes.
I'm here to help guide you through sharing factual news with a method that I'm going to call the Four-Rs. Before sharing an article, make sure it is:
Let's break down each R and explain its purpose.
This is probably the easiest way to rule out fake news. If you see a link with headline on social media, click the link before you decide to share or retweet. Sometimes the article is click-bait. This means it has a bogus headline, just to get you to click on the website. Not cool. Anyway, this fuels into fake news because that bogus headline may generate conversation. If hundreds of people share an attention grabbing headline... without clicking the link... hundreds more will see it. I'm not good at math, but I'm pretty sure that means tens of thousands of others could see it too. Without clicking the link, you won’t realize the headline is untrue. And if you re-share, you’re contributing to fake news. It's a never ending cycle.
This step is a little more in-depth... and it takes effort on your part. Keep in mind that just about anyone can create a website. (Proof: I made this one for less than $20.) So, since anyone can create a website, it also means that they can basically share whatever they want. That said, the best way to find out if something is real is by looking at the source. Once you're on the website, go to the "About" page. This page will give you a clue as to where the article is generated and its intention.
Here's an example from The Babylon Bee, a well-known satire website:
Other satirical websites include the Daily Mash, the Onion, the Civilian, the Spoof, the Beaverton, and the Borowitz Report. So, bottom line… if it's noted as a satire website, don't expect much "real" news. If it's run by a policy group or advocacy organization, don't expect an unbiased perspective.
Checking the relevance of an article is important. Digital media articles live online for a long time. This means you’ll need to look at the date of when it was published. If it's an article about a missing child, the first thing you should do is check the date. If it’s from a few years ago, or even a few months ago, look for an update. Don’t share a story about a missing child from three years ago who was also found three years ago. It’s not necessarily fake news since it was once true; however, it’s no longer current news.
This is really a combination of the first three Rs. Taking responsibility is a way to become an educated news consumer. If the article seems far-fetched... maybe it is. It is your duty to fact-check before sharing something that could be fake news. As consumers, we must be responsible for the news we watch, read, and share.
There are also dozens of free resources to learn how to consume news. Click here to check out a free course from edX.
Maria Satira is a full-time journalist and part-time blogger, freelance writer, and content creator. She loves sarcasm, rescue dogs, and red wine. She despises bland food, poor grammar, and litterbugs.