With the explosion of internet sites and social media that has made it easy for anyone to publish something and call it “news”, like I said early this year that the rumoured death of President Buhari will not be the only one we are going to be coming across this year. Stories like one that claimed President Buhari dead while holidaying in London went viral on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp are just one of the many to expect in the year 2017.
With the Federal Government urging Nigerians to be extra vigilant in view of the worsening cases of fake news being spread by unscrupulous persons, who are bent on destabilizing the polity and causing disunity among the country’s various ethnic and religious groups, one is obliged to guide the unsuspecting citizens to how to detect and fight fake News for the sake of us all.
Facebook came under criticism for not doing enough to weed out Fake News; though it decline to provide a listing of the banned sites, Google has banned more than 200 publishers since it passed a new policy against fake news but the fight against the fake news must be holistic and all individuals with access to the internet should be vaccinated against fake news.
A few months back when a person drops a post in one of the Whatsapp groups saying President Buhari is dead. I was quick to respond that it was a lie that can only be promoted by faceless clowns and haters.
From an unanticipated quarter, someone asked are you sure and how do you know that the post is fake? Because and many other that usually ask that same question, and now to enlighten innocent Nigerians, here is how to tell the difference between a fake news or rumour and genuine ones.
The Source Is Known to Be Shady
Certain sources are known to be unreliable. The number of people that visit the site does not count for example The Daily Mail, in particular, is regarded as one of Britain’s less reputable publications. However, it is also the world’s most visited newspaper site
Other Stories From This Source Are doubtful
The list of fake websites was by no means exhaustive, and new ones open up every week. So how can you tell if a site is reliable if it’s not on any list of fake websites? One way is to do a quick scan of some of the headlines and first few paragraphs of other stories on the site.
Let’s say you’re interested in a story with the headline, “President Buhari Dies in London.” That certainly sounds plausible. But if some of the other headlines on that site read ” Tinubu, Atiku, Sheriff and Markafi plotting mega-party alliance” “Herbalist Accidentally Discovers Cure for Aids” and “Governors force Oshibajo to resign,” you should be wary.
Reputable News Sites Aren’t Carrying It
One of the easiest ways to figure out if a news story is legitimate or not is to check it against the stories posted on other reputable sites. Let’s stick with the example of “President Buhari Dies in London. You become alarmed, but realise you’re finding out about this upsetting news on a website that you don’t recognise. Let’s call it SolidNews.com. Simply conduct an online search for “President Buhari” and see what comes up. If sites like NAN, Punch, Vanguard, PremiumTimes and BarometerNG are running the same story, it’s likely to be true. A single article from a suspicious source or Facebook post and tweets making a grand claim should be viewed with heavy scepticism. If no reliable news outlets are also reporting the story, then it’s likely fake.
However, make sure to delve a bit deeper. If BarometerNG and others all cite SolidNews.com as the source for the president’s death story that puts you right back where you started from. You need to find a reputable source that has done its own reporting on the story to ensure its truth and accuracy.
It Predicts a Future Disaster
A fair number of fake news stories hook readers in because they predict a future disaster. Yes, some of them are pretty incredible and seem obviously fake — the planned date for President Buhari resignation, for example, or Trump endorses Jonathan for 2019. But some seem rather believable.
Consider any disaster story carefully, especially if it’s paired with a specific date. Such a story may be true, for example, stories about the AIDS epidemic and the Ebola crisis. But more often than not, it’s hyperbole or just plain false.
It Reveals a Cure for a Major Illness
Humans are not only fascinated by potential disasters but by illnesses, diseases and human-caused conditions (like global warming or pollution). That’s why another type of fake news story is so prevalent —the curing of a major illness or disease, or the solution to an important human race issue, such as the lack of clean drinking water
The Website Carries a Disclaimer
Above-board satirical websites like The Onion tell you they’re peddling satire. Less-honest sites sometimes issue confusing disclaimers. NewsBuzzDaily, for example, writes on every page that it contains both “real shocking news” and “satire news,” then adds, “Please note that articles written on this site are for entertainment and satirical purposes only.” So is it all satire or only partial satire? And if partial, which stories are true?
Some of them defend themselves by saying its site carries a disclaimer, and they do. “This is Satire!” is printed at the bottom of every page. But those words lie hidden within a black
The Story Is a Little Too Funny or Interesting
The goal of posting fake news stories is to attract readers/traffic to their site. One way to do this is to run really funny and Bizarre compelling stories. The more eyebrow-raising a story is, the more people seem to want to read and share it, and other news outlets to reprint it. Those are the kinds of stories fake sites thrive upon. So your antenna should go up if you read such a piece.
The Website Has an Odd Domain Name
One of the easier ways to spot suspect stories is if they’re located on a news site with a strange domain name. So-called fake news publishers will sometimes take advantage of “.co” domains by appearing similar to legitimate news sites that would normally end in “.com.”Sometimes if a story originates on a site ending in “.ru” or “.co”, that’s a red flag. “.Ru” is used by the Russian Federation, while “.co” is used by Colombia; these two extensions are considered suspect.
Other untrustworthy sites will try to imitate a reputable, well-known website by incorporating it into its own URL; for example, using Punch as part of its URL: www.punch-real-news.com. Another trick? Using nearly the same URL as a popular site, like using responder.com instead of BarometerNG, omitting a letter or two, or misspelling the name. Very long, complex domain names are another sign something might be amiss.
The Story Makes You Angry
Ever read a story that really made you mad? Or that seemed to tap into your innermost insecurity or fear? Maybe it was about the President Buhari is dead due to the economic recession. Don’t automatically believe what you just read and pass it on. Many false news stories purposely play on our fears and anxieties, knowing that doing so will make people follow their emotions and not their brains.
Use the five W’s and one H Approach (5W-1H)
As guards against falling into the fake news trap and is expected to come in the torrent in the year 2017 ask the following questions.
WHO wrote the article?
Is there a byline or author? Looking at who wrote the article can reveal a lot of information about the news source. Searching through the author’s previous articles can show whether they are legitimate writers or have a history of hoaxing
- WHAT is the publication? Is it a credible or trusted news source?
- WHERE do the sources inside come from? Are they named? Are they legit? Are they absent?
- WHEN was it published? Check the date and time of publication A missing date could raise a flag.
- WHY did the writer create it? What was the motivation? Would you share it with someone?
- HOW did it make you feel?
Angry? Excited? Any other strong emotions? That could be another flag. Is it suspicious? To what degree can you fix it?
Read past the headline
One way that fake news gets amplified is that busy readers don’t look past the headline or opening paragraph before they decide to share an article. Fake news publishers sometimes exploit this tendency, writing the beginning of a story in a straightforward way before filling in the rest with obviously false information.
Look out for questionable quotes and photos.
It’s incredibly easy for fake news writers to invent false quotes, even attributing them to major public figures like Robert Mugabe. Be sceptical of shocking or suspicious quotes, and search to see if they have been reported elsewhere.
Likewise, it’s easy to take a photo from one event and say it’s from another just as Governor did in a China Airport. Images can also be altered for a certain story. Reverse image searches, either through Google or tools like TinEye, can help you find where an image originated.
Always Add a Healthy Dose of Scepticism
Don’t automatically believe what you read, especially if it’s a story that seems designed to be inflammatory or to spark some kind of strong emotion in you. Look for evidence in the story itself that backs up the claims being made. Often, you’ll notice that there simply isn’t any.
Keep an eye out for outrageous or obviously contrived quotes, anonymous sources only or a complete lack of quotes in a story. These are all red flags.
Beware confirmation bias
People are often drawn to stories that reinforce the way they see the world and how they feel about certain issues. Fake news is no exception, and many of the articles that fall under its umbrella are designed to stir up emotion in readers and prey on their biases.
It’s important to check that news stories are based on fact, rather than sharing them because they support one side of an argument or bolster pre-existing political beliefs. Fake news peddlers are taking the problem to new levels and will stop at nothing to confuse, befuddle and downright bamboozle you into sharing them.
Slay It, Don’t Spray It
In other words, share responsibly. An effective way of combatting fake news is simply to prevent it from spreading on social media. Don’t share articles you haven’t properly read, just because they make an overall point that you happen to agree with. Make sure you’re part of the solution, not part of the problem. Share responsibly.
By Ibrahim Ola Balogun, Social Commentator and Policy Analyst