In mid-October, Eric Trump tweeted an article about a man who claimed the Clinton campaign paid him to protest at a rally for Donald Trump in Arizona. The article was from the website “abcnews.com.co” – with “ABC News” displayed prominently on its homepage.
But ABC News did not report that story. The story shared by Eric Trump to his more than 600,000 Twitter followers was false, and from a known fake-news website.
Incidents like these have become more commonplace, according to Richard Hornik, a lecturer at Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy. With so much information available to readers online, it’s now more difficult than ever to discern what’s reliable and what isn’t.
“The internet and social media has given everyone the capability to publish information,” Hornik said. “That’s empowered a lot of people, but that also carries with it great problems, and those problems have become more prevalent especially in the most recent election.”
Keep scrolling for advice on spotting fake or unreliable news sources. Clicking on the dots will reveal tips related to actual fake stories found on websites and social media.
Check your biases
“Most of us would prefer to look at news that confirms something we already believe,” Hornik said. That’s what makes getting information strictly from your social media feeds so perilous, he added. On Facebook you’re more likely to see posts and updates from likeminded people, creating an “echo chamber” in which most of the information shared and discussed is ideologically congruent with your beliefs, Hornik said.
To escape the echo chamber, experts recommend consuming information from a diverse array of sources.
“It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames,” Melissa Zimdars, an associate professor of communications at Merrimack College, wrote in a widely circulated list of unreliable media sources to avoid.
The image below is a screenshot of the fake story on Trump protesters from abc.com.co.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
“If something seems too weird, too funny, too perfect, take a step back and ask yourself could this really be right?” Hornik said, referring to a doctored picture of what appeared to be sharks swimming in the New York Stock Exchange that went viral after superstorm Sandy hit.
If you come across something that could be a hoax, Hornik suggests utilizing fact-checking websites like Politifact or Snopes, a site that recently tracked down the source of a rumor that 3 million noncitizens voted illegally during the election.
There are also several websites that can help you determine if an image is fake, such as Google Image search and Tineye.com.
“Rank does not equal reliability”
Even though a story may appear high in a list of Google search results, it may not be a dependable source, Hornik said.
For instance, Hornik notes that the sixth result in a Google search of “Martin Luther King Jr.” is a website whose homepage links to stories such as “Why the King Holiday Should be Repealed!” and “Black Invention Myths.”
The site is hosted by Stormfront, a white supremacist group.
“Don’t trust information from strangers”
If you see a questionable news story or headline, experts recommend checking out the social media accounts or websites that posted the information, and see whether there’s a listed author.
Check the “About Us” tab on suspect websites, do a quick Wikipedia search, or search on Snopes.com.
“If information is reliable, it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out who the author is. As I always tell my students, ‘Children are always told not to take candy from strangers, and you shouldn’t take information from strangers,’”Hornik said.
Was that photo taken out of context?
Reporting real photos and videos out of context has become common practice for some hyperpartisan websites, Hornik notes.
In April, Occupy Democrats posted a video that allegedly showed police in North Carolina removing a woman from a bathroom for not looking feminine enough. The post went viral during the “bathroom bill” controversy, which aimed to block transgender individuals from using the public bathrooms of the sex with which they identify.
But Snopes.com found the same video was posted to Facebook in 2015, and there was no evidence that it was shot in North Carolina.