Learn to identify fake news: Fact-checking 101

| Updated: January 25, 2023 11:06:28

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While digitalisation has eased people's access to information, it has created scopes of spreading false and misleading information at the speed of light.

As our news reading habits constantly converge toward online platforms, mass readers have been more exposed to made-up news than ever. Hence, media literacy and basic knowledge of fact-checking are important.

Here are some primary steps to verify a news item within your limits when you are not a media industry insider.

Check multiple sources: The first step in online fact-checking news is to check multiple sources. It's important to read articles from different news outlets, both mainstream and independent, to get a well-rounded view of the story. 

By comparing the information presented in different articles, you can better understand what is true and what might be biased or misleading.

Recheck dates: Many dishonest news platforms resurface old news to create buzz. Before getting lost in the news, always check the dates properly and ensure it is the latest development.

Source sites: A good and reliable source website will show transparency regarding their ownership, goals and visions, employees, etc. So if you are doubtful about a news item's credibility, look for the source website's about us page. 

CRAAP: It is a basic rule that can successfully verify your news item most of the time. CRAAP refers to - Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority, and Purpose.

Look at the Domain name: Well, this is a modern-day deception method - changing the domain name slightly to fool most readers' eyes. For instance, a website with an almost identical interface to the New York Times may arise on your social media feed with fake news.

Even the domain name is tweaked in a way that it successfully evades our eyes most of the time. While the original domain name is 'nytimes.com,' the fake one could be like this - 'nytiimes.com.' Could you notice this difference if not prompted?

Verify the information: Verify the key facts and figures presented in the article. Check the sources cited by the news outlet and see if they are credible and reliable. Also, randomly picking a few statistical data from the news and searching them on the web would make your verification process more thorough.

Check for bias: When verifying online news, it's also important to be aware of the potential biases of a news source. For example, a news source funded by a political or special interest group may be more likely to present a biased view of the news. To avoid bias, it's best to read from multiple sources, including mainstream and independent news outlets.

Use fact-checking websites: Use fact-checking websites such as Snopes, Factcheck.org, or PolitiFact to verify the accuracy of specific claims made in a news article. There are a few reliable Bangladeshi fact-checking platforms, too, like BDFactcheck.

Look for original sources: Many biased news outlets tend to create sensation through clickbait headlines and present partial facts from selected research or survey studies. Look for primary sources, such as official reports, studies, or documents, to find out if the claim is true.

Look for context: It's also important to consider the story's context. For example, a news source specialising in sports news might not be as credible when it comes to reporting on the economy or politics.

Be sceptical: Know when to be sceptical of sensational or unbelievable headlines, and don't be afraid to question the validity of the information presented in an article. 

Identify problematic words: While it is not confirmed that some sensational and problematic words make a news item false, they certainly question a news article's objectivity and quality. 

Superlative terms like the most, the best, and the worst; concluding remarks on study or journal findings; exaggerating emotions with the use of words like extremely, painfully, unfortunately, sadly; taking a side among multiple stakeholders of news - these are some factors that should catch your attention while reading a news item and stir scepticism in your mind.

Follow trusted journalists: Last but not least, if you are on multiple social media platforms, do follow some eminent and reliable journalists and media personalities who can give you authentic information. This especially works on Twitter. 

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