6 Ways to Spot Fake News
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
First of all, if you're seeing something on a social media platform, it's a good bet that you're reading an unsubstantiated opinion at best - and a "practiced lie" at worst.
Don't believe anything you read in the papers or hear on the radio - no matter what publication or station - until you take these steps to verify the information.
As I sit here writing the script for a TED-style talk on "The Truth," I'm amazed at how nobody's quite sure what to believe anymore. Or maybe what's worse, people believe everything they read - on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, and on and on. And they believe everything they hear on FOX and MSNBC and even NPR.
Today's media consumer takes everything at face value without reflecting on whether it's true or not. Most the time, folks don't even read the article. They just read the headline and retweet.
Do that, and you're just a sheep playing into somebody else's campaign to spread lies, confuse the issues and persuade otherwise good people to believe bad things about things they don't understand. If you don't know the facts enough to form your own opinion, then you are simply echoing someone else's bullshit.
Be honest...have you read the Mueller Report? Then shut up!
Therefor, here are 6 ways to tell if what you're being told is "Truth with a Capital T" or something that your buddy heard from a friend who reddit (sic) on the internet.
1. Is it really too ridiculous to believe?
Stop and think for a second when you read a headline like, "Cockroach Milk Could Be The Next Superfood." Yep, that's a real headline. The first line of the article states, "A team of scientists from around the globe..." Believe it if you want to (maybe you could farm your pests for profit) but until I read it in a trusted journal, I'm going with Ripley.
2. Does it come from a trusted source?
Forbes recently wrote an article listing news sources as ranked by a survey of Americans. Why would I trust the results of a beauty contest held among people who have a 6th-grade reading proficiency and listen to partisan howlers? For me, I like to combine what I read in the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal (ideological opposites) along with the reports of CBS National News (mostly solid reporting with little opinion). More important - if I can't find the primary source of the information, I won't bite without a few grains of salt.
3. Link me to the citations, please.
I do regular work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For them, it's simple: You cite everything. You know, it's like your math teacher saying, "Show me how you got the answer." No data? No facts? I'd like to believe you but... If it doesn't come from the AMA, JAMA, NASA, NOAA or the like - I'm not buying it. These days, I don't even take the word of the EPA, FDA or SEC.
4. Ask: Who Might Benefit?
Anytime you see a report or data and there's a person, party, or industry that will see immediate benefits, you better think twice (Poco, 1970) about taking that data at face value or taking any actions based on that data. In fact, based on a survey of 12 people from my neighborhood, I've determined that you should switch to a regimen of vaccinations. This study was funded by start-up drug developer who stands to make $billions with their new discovery. Who wrote this article? Are they credible? Can I get even 2 other sources to verify this? OK, you see what I mean.
5. Read the Whole Article and Not Just the Headline
I'll bet you've read a lot of posts on your Facebook or Twitter feed and never bothered to read the rest of the article. You just reposted that article or tweet and spread the word. HEADLINES ARE CLICKBAIT!! Often, the writer's opinion is the exact opposite of the headline. More often, it's some no-name troll or worse - some 800 pound writer in the bedroom in their mother's basement. Don't smear the filth.
6. Remember! Everyone Has An Axe to Grind
Unless they're posting about their baby pictures or the fantastic foie gras they just ate, posters have an agenda or they wouldn't be posting. Professional trolls and public relations specialists are trying to get into your head. Businesses are trying to sell you something. Politicians are looking for your vote. Activists are inciting change. Ulterior motives abound.
You're getting bombarded with information - and I use the term judiciously - everyday, on every medium, from hundreds of sources. Most of it is b#llsh#t. Don't believe anything without the data and impartial analysis to back it up.