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Disinformation: What is “Fake News” and how to spot it

Disinformation: What is “Fake News” and how to spot it

Ella Morley

Fake news or disinformation is a common term heard nowadays but what does it actually mean? 

Fake news is spread of false or misleading information with the deliberate intention of deceiving the readers. Unfortunately, sometimes when we read these items it is so convincing that many of us fall into the trap of believing what we have read and inevitably share it with others. 

It is important to keep your eyes peeled to avoid becoming a victim of disinformation or fake news.

Be aware

The first step in spotting fake news or disinformation is to be aware that it is out there and that the sheer amount of it is increasing rapidly. Sharing, liking and reposting this content only gives it an opportunity to grow. 

Do not believe everything you read. 

It is always important to be sceptical. Anyone can put a video online claiming something is real when it is in fact a hoax. Nowadays it is easier than ever for these stories to go viral.

Look for clues

Often there can be a few ways to tell if you are looking at disinformation or not. At times they can be easy to spot but at other times it can be rather difficult to tell if something is real or not. 

Has the author written other pieces? If they are relatively well-known then the information is probably accurate. No name associated with the article should be a warning signal. 

Can you spot a date anywhere? Often dates are left out when it comes to fake news. 

The language used can be an indication as to whether the material is the truth or just a falsehood. Frequent spelling mistakes and bad grammar is usually a sign that you shouldn’t believe what you are reading.

Mainstream media outlets, such as RTÉ and Virgin Media, have a responsibly to report facts and be impartial when it comes to news. If you see or read something that is overly pushing one particular view, conspiracy theories or racist views, you know the piece has an agenda and that’s so spread misinformation.

Double check

If you are unsure of whether the material you have found is true or not, it is best to double check. When you do this, you will quickly be able ascertain if you can trust what you have just watched or read. Find another source and see if the same information is available elsewhere. 

If the news is fake it will not be distributed among reliable websites and genuine articles by reputable journalists. If the news is true then it is very likely you will be able to find multiple sources confirming this.

Check your sources

Where did the news come from? Was it from a mainstream broadcaster or did it come from social media? Is the source reliable or not? Ask yourself these questions before you share the information. 

Watch out for bot accounts. These can be quite tricky to identify but if you are aware that they exist, you may be able to find a giveaway clue that will tell you if it is real or not.

Check the username – is it full of random numbers and letters?  If so, it is a good idea to take a closer look and double check the information. This could be a bot account. 

See Also

Remember, that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is and the alarm bells should begin to ring. Stay safe.

Talker to older family members about Fake News

We’ve grown up as digital natives, therefore we understand the social construct of social media and the internet a lot more naturally than older generations. We also spend a lot more time on it, so it can be easier for us to recognise unreliable news sites, bot accounts and fake news. Don’t discredit how easy it can be for older generations to get sucked into the world of conspiracy theories. 

Disinformation is a huge issue in Ireland and often people begin engaging with conspiracy spinning groups on Facebook or sharing a fake news posts without really realising it and then they slowly start getting sucked in. 

Irish CNN reporter, Donie O’ Sullivan has been covering the disinformation and conspiracy groups in the US linked with Donald Trump. It’s easy to laugh at all because it seems so far-fetched and a bit mad, but there’s already a big issue here in Ireland with conspiracies around COVID-19 (it’s spreading through the 5G broadband, don’t ya know?) and anti-mask protests taking place in various locations around the country.

If you see family members sharing things on Facebook or talking about things that all seem a bit mad, have a talk with them about it and how they can fact check information before passing it on.

Social Media sites have started to tackle the issue of fake news, but it’s still not enough. If you do see something suspicious or grossly offensive report it to the site, but also block it. The best thing to do is to be aware of the issue and stay vigilant online.

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