We have all seen it: that crazy uncle on your Facebook feed posting news so outrageous that it can’t be true. Or can it?
The simple answer is no, Fidel Castro will not come back to life after the Cuban government faked his death.
However, there is a bigger problem at play here. A new era of yellow journalism being ushered in by exaggerated news on sites that are extremely biased or fake.
These sites have gained so much power that some have speculated that they, along with pro-Donald Trump Russian propaganda, played a part in shaping the presidential election.
Websites like TMZ and the print tabloids have been doing this for years, but many people realize that those forms of media are gossip rather than real news.
However, there are few ways to stop people from creating websites promoting “fake news.” Once it’s online, nothing stops it from reaching millions of people in a matter of seconds.
The problem with posting fake or exaggerated news is that those without the ability to see past serious flaws in a story might actually believe it to be true.
Here are some tips to see if you can really trust the “news” people are putting on social media.
–Compiled by Parker Ward
Look at the source
The source of the story is often the easiest way to see if it’s really newsworthy.
If it’s not a formal news source like The Washington Post or ABC News, take extreme caution when reading the story.
Some websites have even begun posing as credited news sources. Methods include changing “.com” to “.co” in the URL.
One such story, posted on a website posing as ABC News, claimed that a man was paid $3,500 to protest Trump’s rallies.
While the story was obviously fake, the now president-elect and his campaign manager at the time, Corey Lewandowski, tweeted out the story to their followers as if it were news.
A simple check of the URL could have alerted them to the fact that this was fake news.
Check the headline’s wording
Some headlines are nothing but “clickbait” meant to draw in readers with outrageous claims.
If a headline sounds too ridiculous to be true, then it’s probably false.
“THE TRUTH IS OUT! The Media Doesn’t Want You To See What Hillary Did After Losing …” reads a headline on LibertyWritersNews.com, a site run from an Airbnb rental by two former restaurant workers who told The Washington Post they write to get clicks.
Any good news organization would never use all caps and put an exclamation mark in a headline unless the world is ending. And chances are, it isn’t.
Check quote sources
Believe it or not, some news might not always be completely fake, but certain websites like to present quotes out of context or otherwise significantly altered.
A simple check to see if the quote came from a firsthand source will probably tell you whether or not you can trust that source.
A recent example was a crusade against Kellogg’s perpetrated by Breitbart.
The website claimed that Kellogg’s stocks were falling due to “accusations of child labor exploitation.” This claim is exaggerated. The real story is that some of Kellogg’s products used palm oil that a human rights group claimed was made using child labor. Breitbart did not mention this article or where they got their information from, leading anyone who did not look deep enough to believe there was a huge scandal.
Look for any serious flaws
Does this story actually sound feasible? If you have serious doubts before even reading the story, then it is probably as far from the truth as a “.co” website.
For example, a few weeks ago, a fake news story about Hobby Lobby closing all its stores spread across Facebook. However, Hobby Lobby’s website showed a statement saying the story was false and that the company was still in business.
You should always have a healthy level of skepticism.
Is it satire?
Websites like the Onion produce comically satirical news. It’s obviously fake, but it does not go out of its way to tell the world that it is satire.
The only real concern is that satirical websites don’t tend to break away from their comedic model. Their satire is fake and just meant to be humorous, but some people still fall into the trap.