We live in the age of information, when anybody can read anything. This is truly a unique age. For the first time in human history, common people have access to so much information. Knowledge has always been a prerogative of the powerful. Knowledge by itself is a power. So why do we give it up so easily?
In a time, when we have access to everything humanity knows, we have to be very careful about what we consume. Sifting through information is hard and cultivating a learning hygiene is crucial. Believing everything we read can be dangerous. Especially in these troubling times.
Information is power and it doesn’t matter if this information is true or not. Deceiving news can be as powerful as the credible ones. Today the fight we take against the virus has to be a fight against fake news as well. Fake news has become more sophisticated and legitimate than ever. We can categorize fake news like:
Deliberate misinformation, written for profit. Such news is usually on social media and the readers don’t have time to check its credibility;
False headlines are usually used as “clickbaits”. The body of the article tells something different than its headline;
Social media sharing relies on the flow state of the reader. She usually doesn’t have time to check the information;
Satire is not deliberately false but some readers spread it like real news, when they do not get the humor.
There are a few things you can do to check if a story is real. One of the places you can do this is Factcheck.org. This is a nonprofit organization that verifies viral information on the internet. A few steps for spotting fake news:
Consider the source – check the site, mission and contact data of the author;
Read beyond the headline – sometimes the headlines don’t tell the whole story;
Check the author – do a quick search if such a person even exists;
Check the date – sometimes the story itself might be true but old and irrelevant to the current situation;
The story might be a joke;
Check your biases – do you own beliefs that might affect your judgement?
Consult the experts – ask an expert in the relevant field or check a fact-checking site. Such sites are: FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, Politifact.com.
You could also do a reverse image search of pictures, accompanying the article. Right-click the image and choose “Search Google for image”. A telltale sign that the story might be fake: the accompanying image is used many times on many different topics. Don't believe everything you read online. Be a critical thinker and don’t let someone else use your trust for profit.