We have talked about fake news in one of our previous posts. Besides that, we also have discussed how infodemic has been taking over the Internet gradually. These are just two obvious examples of how the advancement of technology can affect us in a negative way, about which we seemingly can do nothing much.
But, is that really the case? Can we just not fight against fake news? Or, do we always have to dig in an ocean of information just to get what we exactly need? If there is a problem, there ought to be a solution too. Even the Covid-19 pandemic got to have a cure at last.
Just like that, we have a solution here when it comes about fake news and all the internet issues of trust. This solution is known as fact-checking. Not exactly an ultimate solution, if you want to be utmost critical, but fact-checking can help a lot figuring out differences between real versus fake; what to trust and or not.
What is fact-checking
The Cambridge Dictionary defines fact-checking as the process of checking the correctness of all the facts presented in a piece of writing, a news article, a speech, etc. It can be regarded as an essential practice of modern journalism. There are online organizations that are devoted to fact checking such as www.factcheck.org.
Fact-checking occurs when someone looks at every single fact of any sort of information with a cautious eye to verify the accuracy of those facts, and information. Although, fact-checking is primarily associated with journalism, it can be done by anyone. The serious and big-time fact-checking works are being done by major news organizations, but, every person needs to have a basic idea of fact-checking. As we pass our day with social media, we have to be aware of not being fooled by fake news.
Why fact-checking is important
According to a 2016 survey by Pew Research Center, many Americans conceded that fake news is having an impact on their regular practice of getting news. Some of them even admitted that they themselves shared fake news either knowingly or unknowingly. It’s been almost five years since the research has been conducted, and the amount of fake news has also gone skyrocketing since then.
Well, it’s true that the discourse of fact-checking got remarkable attention during all these years, but, most of it was organization-based initiatives. But, those organizations, news outlets, independent fact-checking corporations are not enough to keep the internet free from fake news.
The importance of individual fact-checking is a trend now. It’s important because not every fact is being verified by dedicated institutions. We can not expect to have them cleansing the whole Internet for us. We have to think globally, act individually to check our own facts.
It’s a duty. People who use the Internet are often addressed as netizens, the citizens of the net world. Just like a real-life citizen has a lot of duties to perform for the sake of their country, the same goes for the netizens. They have a very sacred duty of keeping their virtual world pure, real in a sense. Individual fact-checking can help achieve the task.
How do you fact-check
Using the buzzword often and everywhere is cool, but, it’s important we actually know how to do our own fact-checking. It’s neither an easy nor hard as job, all we need to do is be smart about believing facts or information. Here are some tips to do your own fact-check.
Check the source, look for more
When looking at new information, say, a video, a news, an article, watch for the source. Is it trustworthy? How do you know that? Use your instincts. Does it look trustworthy? Does the source have any previous allegation of sharing fake news? Click on the source link, if available, to see what other contents came out of that source.
Another thing you can do is look for several sources for the topic you are engaging with. For example, if you are reading a news that arises doubt in your mind about its reliability, go search for it on the Internet. See if you can get the same news from different sources. If that happens, there is a major possibility that the news is correct. That’s why it is better to get your news from reliable, widely regarded, prominent news organizations (NYT, BBC, AFP, Bloomberg).
Experts say, check everything double, tripple, even quadruple. Are you ready to be this careful with your facts?
Think before sharing. Sharing is caring, but, sharing misinformation = spreading can bring the opposite. Share only if you think it’s really needed to be shared with others. If somebody shares something with you, ask for the source. Don’t spread rumors.
Look at the comments
Specially on social media, comments are a great way to get a basic idea on the origin of something. Some comments may state what exactly is going on in the contents. But, do not believe that before you search for the claim on the Internet.
Check the URL
Check out the URL of the site you are on, because there are sites that look exactly similar to some popular websites, or newspapers’ websites. These fake sites only change a letter or number in the URL, and, at first glance, some might miss out the big difference.
Read About Us section
Social media pages, groups etc can have a bigger audience, huge likes and comments. Always check the About section of every page or group. For example, a satire page (The Onion) may share news that can be believed as real news on the basis of context, but, the About section will always clarify the original purpose of that page.
Use Google reverse image search
Fake images (Deep Fake) are one of the worst kinds of fake contents. Images have more power to manipulate people’s minds (seeing is believing) than anything in text. Google can help you to get to the origin of a photo that you consider to be fake. Google reverse image search will show you more results of the same image.
Open the Chrome browser on your desktop. There you will see the “image” text on the upper right corner. Click on it, and a new page will reload. There you can upload an image and google will bring you results that contain the same image. You can then browse those links and get an idea about the originality of the image. Note that, if you face difficulty to open the image search box, or you are using your phone, you can directly access it by using https://images.google.com/ link.
Read the whole news
Headlines can be deceiving. Some headlines appear as clickbait (Internet based such contents that are created in a way to attract audiences and make them click on it), some are totally confusing, and some differ with the content inside the news. So, don’t keep your faith on headlines. Sometimes, the news can be completely different than what the headline might refer to. So, before believing, or sharing, we really must first open the actual news article.
Control your biases
You can idolize something, somebody, but, facts are facts. Sometimes, facts can conflict with or even contradict with your belief or ideology. Still, don’t let confirmation bias take over you and blind you.
Technically speaking, fact-checking is not relatively a new practice that emerged in recent years, rather, it can be dated back to the era of Ronald Reagan. The style of investigative journalism does not hold much differences than the process of fact-checking; both have one primary goal, to figure out what is real. And, the American investigative journalism saw its best practice during the Watergate scandal. Facts have always been manipulated, it’s just more common and reachable now.