Fake News: How to Catch it on Social Media

Facebook representatives recently told a panel in Ottawa that the social media giant will not take down doctored or misleading content during the 2019 Federal election because it is not their job to decide what is free speech and what isn’t. If the platform where most fake news is shared won’t do much about it, how can you, as a responsible user, separate fact from fiction?

With the US and Canadian elections ramping up, it’s important to become informed on the issues, but you need to be sure you’re reading real articles that use authentic sources. As advisories get more sophisticated in their abilities to mislead us, we have to get more savvy at detecting fake news and doctored photos and videos.

How to Spot Fake News on Social Media:

False news can be a tricky thing to detect. On the surface, an article link or photo can appear legitimate, but there are some things to look for if you’re seeing an article from an unfamiliar source (not a verified news organization that you follow).

  1. Be suspicious of headlines that use exclamation points and make broad, sweeping statements. If a headline looks like clickbait or a bit like something you would see in a tabloid magazine.
  2. Look at the URL. Some fake stories are mocked up to look like they’re from a legitimate news site. If the URL looks strange, you’re probably reading an illegitimate report.
  3. Be a grammar and spelling nerd. While every news organization has the odd slip up when it comes to publishing typos and misspellings, they are few and far between. If a headline and article feature unusual phrasing, spelling and grammar errors, it might be fake news.
  4. Doctored photos or out of context photos. The accompanying photo will tell a story, as well. Does the photo look real? Is it poor quality or pixelated? Does the photo match the story, or does it seem out of place. Sometimes the authors of false stories just worry about creating a catchy headline paired with an explosive image, knowing that some social media users won’t read the article, but will react to the headline alone. This generates outrage in the user without them ever opening the article. If something looks extreme, question it.
  5. Google it. If the story seems like a big deal, but you haven’t seen it anywhere else, plug it into a search engine and see what you find. Sometimes this will help you uncover it as a hoax.
  6. Is it satire? Websites like The Onion and The Beaverton are for humour. Writers deliberately create false stories as a joke and are not meant to be taken seriously. These articles are created as entertainment, not to deceive the reader.
  7. Be aware of the types of pages you follow and do some research into their legitimacy. Some political pages will create memes and other shareable content that is slanted or false. Remember that memes are not facts. Never take a political meme at face value.

Contact Us

A lot of these same tips apply to other sites, such as Twitter and Instagram. Also be aware of political blogs, chats or message boards.

As always, take internet security extremely seriously. If you have any questions on how you can secure your social media accounts, reach out to TwinBytes today!